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June 01 2009 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Recipe,Salad » 13 comments

caesar

For a long time, a restaurant was only suitable to me if the salad section of the menu included a caesar salad.  For those happy years, I’d crunch through caesar salads without a care in the world.  And then—somewhere around the early to midteen years—I was unfortunate enough to learn two facts: one about a certain caesar ingredient (anchovies) and the other about its nutritional data (specifically in the fat and calorie departments).

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For my midteen-self these were dealbreakers both.  I felt duped: how could a salad be so sinful?  How could something so green be laced with hidden fish?  The caesar, it had forsaken me.

caesar3

Fortunately, my stance on fish—even tiny canned ones—and fat grams has become more moderate over the years.  But I’ve just never felt the same about a caesar salad.  It’s fine in concept, but in practice, it is all too often over-dressed, gloppy and unsatisfying.

caesar4

But a few weeks ago, my friend Brynn brought over a veritable garden patch worth of romaine, along with a freshly made batch of caesar dressing, creamy and flecked with cracked pepper.  Along with some golden croutons, it was the perfect salad.

Since then, I’ve been meaning to get the recipe from Brynn.  But before I got around to it, the June issue of Gourmet showed up, proffering a version of the salad shot through with basil—boasting freshness and herbalness.  Sold.

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An egg and a garlic clove, some oil, the juice of a lemon and a palmful of basil sprigs later (and, fine, a squeeze from a tube of anchovy paste, but don’t tell anyone who doesn’t want to know), I am pleased to report that the caesar and I are back on again.  I anticipate making up for lost time all summer long.

Basil Caesar Salad
Gourmet

As promised, the addition of basil made this salad brighter and lighter-tasting than your traditional caesar.  But the traditional elements—the crunch of romaine, the kick of garlic, the richness of shredded parmesan, the deliciousness of caesar-swathed croutons—were all there too.

1 (10-inch) piece baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove
1 large egg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 package romaine hearts (1 pound), leaves separated and washed well, then halved crosswise
1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Toss bread with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large 4-sided sheet pan, then spread out in 1 layer. Toast in oven, stirring halfway through, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, with motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and finely chop. Add egg, lemon juice, anchovy paste, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pulse until combined. With motor running, add remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified. Add herbs and blend until dressing turns green and herbs are finely chopped.

Toss romaine with dressing, croutons, and half of cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

13 comments so far. »
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  1. Half Assed Kitchen says on June 01 2009 at 9:46 pm:

    I have the same feeling about raw eggs. Dealbreaker for me. This salad looks amazing though. I love the idea of basil!

  2. Amanda B says on June 01 2009 at 9:55 pm:

    It’s so funny that you mentioned caesar salads because I used to eat these all the time in high school. Then I saw how fatty they were and vowed to never eat that many calories in a salad. Why eat a salad when I could have pizza instead?! Plus, once I saw that anchovies were used, I freaked. But now, like you, I am more tolerant and can’t wait to eat some homemade caeser dressing.

  3. oneshotbeyond says on June 01 2009 at 9:57 pm:

    mmmmm mmmmmmm good. I’ll take anybody’s that doesn’t want theirs. :-)

  4. Monica h says on June 01 2009 at 11:40 pm:

    This looks lovely and a perfect Summer meal!

  5. Whitney Merritt says on June 02 2009 at 5:41 am:

    You are so right that most caesar salads are gloppy and just gross and tasteless.

    I haven’t had a good caesar in years. Might need to try this out!

  6. arugulove says on June 02 2009 at 7:30 am:

    This looks so good. I adore caesar salad.

    For anyone who’s afraid of raw eggs, there’s a recipe on epicurious from way back (at least 2004, maybe even older), that uses store bought mayo to make the dressing. I’ve tried it and it’s quite good.

  7. Brynn says on June 02 2009 at 9:39 am:

    Yay! So glad that I inspired you. Regarding anchovy paste: Kristin, you know I won’t touch a fish dish with a 10-foot pole, but even I have learned (thanks to mom!) to appreciate the nuance that anchovy paste can lend to a dish. It’s a salty depth & richness that can’t be recreated by anything else. I often use it in pasta salad and dips (like tapenade) and keep it on a need to know basis. I’ll certainly give any vegetarian friends a heads-up, but I figure for everyone else, what they don’t know can’t hurt them! Also, to comment on the raw eggs…the recipe I used directed me to par boil the eggs first for a minute or two. The yolk is still completely runny, but I at least felt better that any bad bugs were killed in the quick bath. Who knows if that’s true or not, but it did give some peace of mind.

  8. Chocolate and Toast says on June 02 2009 at 9:53 pm:

    Basil! I love this. I was just looking at my plants this morning, thinking they might survive if I just took a few leaves off . . . heh heh. Patience, not so much one of my virtues!

  9. Donna says on June 03 2009 at 4:33 pm:

    This sounds delicious. My husband believe it or not, loves this dish. I will have to try this version!

  10. Caroline says on June 04 2009 at 10:55 am:

    This is one of those basics that I have never made!

  11. Leanna says on June 18 2009 at 12:01 pm:

    I made this to serve with dinner the other night. My small town does not sell anchovy paste, so I just dropped a few whole anchovys into the food processor with the dressing. It worked perfectly. We all loved this salad. What a great way to use the lettuce the is coming from my garden. Thanks for the recipe!!

  12. tara says on June 19 2009 at 10:49 am:

    I am just doing a bit of meal planning, and a little bell went off in my brain to remind me of this salad. It’s now on the list for the weekend.

  13. Nansi says on August 13 2009 at 2:12 pm:

    I’ve just discovered your blog on daring bakers. I emjoy reading this blog and the recipes looks absolutely delicious. I like simple yet tasty food and it seems that it is what this blog is about.

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