Et tu, Caesar?
By Angela Denstad Stigeler
Some things just aren’t what you thought they were. Take Caesar salad, for instance: it isn’t even Italian, let alone historically connected in any way with a Roman emperor. Adding further insult to this sense of culinary betrayal is the popular legend of its origin as the result of a quick-witted chef (named Caesar) who first served it up during a Fourth of July rush circa 1924 in his Tijuana restaurant and bar. But sometimes it ends up being more interesting when you do pay attention to the man behind the curtain: Caesar Cardini, the salad inventor, was a recent Italian immigrant at the time who ended up creating a sensation, tossing up his Caesar salad tableside to Hollywood stars, future nobility, and even Julia Child as a child.
The original Caesar salad, with its coddled egg dressing, is still a popular choice, though many have been warned to beware the uncooked egg. But as the Ides of March approach and you’re hungry for some fresh greens, you can get a close approximation with the following eggless version. “Et tu, Brute?” Caesar utters, as I betray the original recipe. But the real Caesar probably never even said that; it was Shakespeare who wrote those words . . . or was it? At any rate, you can’t fault the salad, which—even if it’s not Julius’s namesake—is still fit for an emperor.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups bread cut into ½-inch cubes
1 head romaine lettuce, or 3 romaine hearts, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed and dried, or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup olive oil
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, with the minced garlic and salt. Stir in the bread cubes to evenly coat. Toast the bread in a large skillet over low heat or in a 350-degree oven until the croutons are golden and crisp.
Meanwhile, combine all the dressing ingredients, except the oil, in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. With the machine running, add the oil in a steady stream until incorporated. Combine the romaine, shaved Parmesan, croutons and about ½ cup of the dressing in a bowl, tossing to coat. Serve immediately, passing extra dressing as desired.
Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook