Can a salad just be a salad, at least once in a while? Maybe I’m the outlier, but these days, salad just feels exhausting. Salad as a lifestyle! Salad as life!
I can appreciate the commitment to packing as many local, nutrient-dense and interesting ingredients into a single bowl (always a bowl) as possible. Sometimes, though, I just want a salad that consists of lettuce, dressing and, duh, croutons.
Caesar salad scratches that itch. Granted, it’s not health food. Nutritionists almost always point to it as the type of dish diners delude themselves into thinking is good for them (it’s salad, right?). And yet, a good Caesar is hard to resist. Just ask my colleagues who swooped in when I was testing. So have it every so often. Serve it on dainty plates the next time you have friends over. No one is going to complain. Or turn it into an entree by adding grilled or poached chicken.
The Washington Post originally published this recipe from food writer David Hagedorn in 2011. Olive oil was not a staple in his house growing up, but feel free to use it in the dressing instead of, or in combination with, the vegetable oil the recipe calls for. The dressing takes its cues from the classic formulation, too, by using anchovy fillets and a raw egg (using a pasteurized egg reduces the risk of salmonella).
The homemade croutons are worth the few minutes it takes to put them together. You might want to make extra because odds are you or someone else will start snacking on them before the salad is even tossed (oh, hey, me).
Retro Caesar Salad
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Make Ahead: The croutons can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container. The dressing can be made a few days in advance.
Adapted from food writer David Hagedorn.
FOR THE CROUTONS
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
4 slices soft Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 1/2 cups), crusts removed if desired
Freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE DRESSING
2 medium cloves garlic
4 anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1 large pasteurized raw egg
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil (may substitute olive oil)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
FOR THE SALAD
4 romaine hearts, cored, leaves torn crosswise four or five times (about 12 ounces total)
About 2 tablespoons freshly grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
For the croutons: Heat the oil in a medium nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the garlic and cook just long enough for it to flavor the oil; remove and discard just as the garlic starts to brown.
Add the bread cubes to the pan, stirring to coat evenly. Season lightly with salt and pepper; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are well browned and toasted. Remove from the heat.
For the dressing: Combine the garlic, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, powdered mustard, egg, sugar and pepper and oil in a blender or mini food processor. Puree until smooth, then add the grated cheese and puree once more. The yield is 1 cup.
To assemble the salad, combine the croutons and all the dressing in a large salad bowl. Add the romaine leaves; use tongs or salad utensils to toss the salad, coating the lettuce evenly.
Divide among individual plates. Top each portion with some grated cheese and pepper; serve right away.