FARM FRIDAY RECIPE: Tom and Danielle’s Caesar Salad
This is a crazy way to remember how to make a salad dressing. A few years ago… actually about 20, we were living in Germany where the grocery shopping was better than any other place I’ve lived – ever. We lived in Hamburg around the Alster River. It was a place of lovely gardens and parks and playgrounds, all loved and appreciated by my then-toddler Carlyle. For my part, I was captivated by the most perfect cafes and shops and a variety of little grocers: the baker, vegetable market, butcher shop, flower shop and gourmet specialty stores.
I shopped most every day; our refrigerator was small so I did as the Europeans do, making the outing daily. I packed up my little Carlyle in her buggy, grabbed the umbrella and off we went. On our return, our little stroller was loaded and Carlyle had a brötchen (little bun) in her hand and an apple slice or piece of ham in the other, most often given to her by the merchants along our way. Often my godmother Renate was visiting, making the journey even more enjoyable. Everything was so fresh and delicious. I cooked every day.
Over the Christmas holidays, my brother Tom came for a visit. He was a young lawyer then, just fresh out of school and in his first job. Now he is a big cheese a partner in a corporate Manhattan law firm. He cooked then and he cooks now. For some reason, he and I decided to engage in some sort of caesar salad battle.
Who could make the better dressing, how crisp were the croutons, did bacon enhance or distract, and so on. We made a caesar salad every single day of his 10 day visit, one day his version, another day mine. Part of the fun was picking up the lettuce from the hands down best vegetable shop down the street. If it came from Italy, it was dark green, flavorful and if it was local – it was not as rich in colour it all added to our experiment. Romaine lettuce – at least at that time – was not as prevalent, usually a head of butter lettuce was the daily leaf.
I followed the Joy of Cooking version of making the dressing, placing each ingredient one at a time over a bowl of freshly washed romaine greens. I remember the first time I made this, suspicious that nothing would combine very well and a piece of fishy anchovy or salt would assault my mouth, but the end result was a lovely, sensation of lemony, salty, garlic not creamy dressing – just enough to coat but not sog the greens.
Tom’s version was not far off, but it was very orderly and precise, like Tom is himself, not just a tossing together along the lines of his sister’s approach. He called it GASPLEVOMP so he could always remember the order of the ingredients. (Of course he did!) But now, so many years later, I use his recipe and honestly, every single time I make it I find myself saying the acronym out loud just in case I’ve forgotten what to do.
As for our Caesar salad battle, in the end we both came around to the other’s version of this great salad, but mostly we just enjoyed the banter during the preparation.
GASPLEVOMP Tom’s Caesar Salad Recipe
G – garlic
A – anchovies
S – sea salt
P – pepper
L – lemon
E – egg yolk
V – vinegar
O – olive oil
M – mustard
P – parmesan
Wash, dry and tear a decent-sized head of romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces; set aside.
In a wooden salad bowl (you can use glass or metal, but wood works the best), mash 1 large clove garlic (G) and mash with the back of a wooden spoon along with 1 or 2 anchovy fillets (A)*, 1 teaspoon coarse salt (S) and freshly ground pepper (P) to taste. The mixture should be well blended with no big chunks of anchovies or garlic when you are finished.
Add the juice of half a lemon (L) and stir into the paste along with 1 egg yolk (E). (I replace this with a tablespoon of mayonnaise if I have guests who might not feel comfortable with the raw egg) and 1 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar (V). (I like white, but Tom used red.) Slowly stir in 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (O), then 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (M) (I often use prepared Dijon.) and 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (P). Just before serving, add the lettuce and toss to combine.
I don’t use croutons, (and I never use bacon…) but if you like them it is worth a few moments’ effort to make them yourself by tossing a few slices of stale bread, cut into cubes, with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 300º for about 20 minutes or until hard. These can be made in advance and once completely cool, held in a jar or bag until you are ready to use. Enjoy!
* use the anchovy fillets even if you don’t like them (which I don’t!) but they make the salad.
Original Caesar Salad Recipe (from the 1967 edition of Joy of Cooking)
For the famous recipe from California leave: 1 clove garlic peeled and sliced in 1/2 cup olive oil: none other for 24 hours.
Sauté: 1 cup cubed French Bread in 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, above. 2 heads romaineBreak into 2″ lengths. Wash and dry well. Place the romaine in a salad bowl.
Sprinkle over lettuce: 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard a generous grating of black pepper (5 fillets of anchovy, cut up small or mashed into a paste, see page 539) (a few drops of Worcestershire sauce)
Add: 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar and the remaining 6 tablespoons of garlic oil.
Cook gently in simmering water for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or use raw: 1 eggDrop the egg from the shell onto the ingredients in the bowl.
Squeeze over the egg: The juice of 1 lemon
Add the croutons, and: 2 to 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Toss the salad well. Serve it at once.
Farm Friday Recipes was born as a result of Danielle’s friends wanting to try out some of her favourite recipes, specifically over the weekend. Weekdays can be rushed and meals eaten in a hurry (even here at the farm!) so why not carve some time put this weekend to enjoy a Farm Friday Recipe with your family.