Essentially, Caesar salad came into my life when Philip Haymaker came into my life. Well, when he came into my life full-time, anyway (since we knew each other for four years before we started dating).
I remember what he ordered on our first date: angel hair pasta with tomato-basil sauce and a Caesar salad. That was on a Tuesday night. We went out again on Friday…I don’t remember what entrée he ordered, but I remember this: he ordered a Caesar salad. And almost ever restaurant salad that he has ordered in the last fourteen and a half (!) years has been the same.
I don’t mean to imply that I had never encountered (or eaten) a Caesar salad before that first date. I recall a Caesar salad at a Red Lobster in California when I was visiting my aunt the summer before eighth grade. I also remember telling my mom about it and her saying, “Do you like Caesar salad?” in a shocked sort of way. It’s just that my family didn’t eat too many Caesar salads back then….most of our salads were of the iceberg variety, with tomatoes and maybe some green peppers or avocado mixed in, usually with a creamy ranch or blue cheese dressing. It’s actually funny to think about that now because my mom and my sister are pretty much completely enamored with Caesar salad these days and the four of us threaten each other with steak knives to see who’s going to get the last of the salad (not really but almost).
Caesar dressing is an enigma of sorts and there are all types of stories about what Caesar salad is supposed to be. You know what I say? Caesar salad is supposed to be good. I don’t think when Caesar Cardini threw together the first Caesar salad in his Tijuana hotel kitchen that he swore then and there under his breath to seek revenge on anyone that dared to change the recipe.
So here’s how it goes…you can put eggs in….or leave them out. You can use anchovies, or maybe you prefer paste (I do) or maybe you’d rather just use Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies)? Okay. Maybe you like your cheese shredded, or maybe you like it grated. Whatevs. Do you like to rub the bowl with garlic or do you like to crush the garlic into your dressing? Have it your way. Would you rather make a pourable dressing or would you rather assemble the salad in the bowl then make the dressing right there on the lettuce (as I did in this post)? The world is your oyster.
I’ve been doing it that way for a while: lettuce in the bowl, then egg yolks, garlic, cheese, lemon juice/vinegar, olive oil, and cheese plus croutons. I like it that way….but here’s what I don’t like: one-day salad. Make that one-hour salad. We all know that once you dress lettuce it’s done for….so I was happy when my aunt gave me her easy Caesar dressing recipe (which I used to have before the blog but lost). It doesn’t contain eggs so it’s got a relatively long shelf-life (I’ve kept it for up to four days in my fridge) and it emulsifies beautifully if you blend it just fast enough, and you just use what you need.
As you can see, this is not a very “traditional” salad I’ve photographed for you here….I didn’t have bread to make croutons so I crushed up some Stacy’s Simply Naked pita chips. They were perfect. And while I prefer shredded cheese on my salads because it coats the leaves oh so perfectly, cheese (Grana Padano in this case but usually Parmigiano Reggiano) shaved with a vegetable peeler makes a nicer visual impact for photos. My easy Caesar dressing pairs perfectly with this fresh salad.