23 Aug2006

salad1

Caesar salad must be one of the most popular salads served in restaurants around the world. When it is done “right,” it is a perfect balance of crispness, sweetness, saltiness and creaminess. I had to prepare a salad for about a dozen people who were going to dinner at a friend’s house the other night so salad2I decided to do a large Caesar salad. Here are Marketman’s tips for a delicious homemade Caesar salad. First, the key is to get good fresh sweet romaine lettuce. I know, I know, I can be a pain in the neck about my absolutes, but iceberg lettuce does not make a good caesar salad in my personal opinion. I bought 3 packages of romaine hearts from my suki lettuce source Fresh Fields at Market!Market! These were then washed, dried and returned to the fridge for at least 3 hours to crisp up the leaves as much as possible. I purchased the leaves just the day before I used them. Longer than a couple of days old and the lettuce starts to lose its freshness and the sweetness associated with freshly picked leaves. For the sake of presentation, I sorted the leaves from 10 romaine hearts from biggest to smallest and recreated a giant “head” of lettuce in a large 20-inch wide narra salad bowl. It looked pretty cool, don’t you think?

Next, I made some homemade sourdough bread croutons. Homemade croutons are 500% better than store-bought. To make, just cube several slices of sourdough bread (I bought a loaf at the Peninsula Hotel Bakery), toss with some good olive oil and sprinkle in sea salt and place on a baking pan in a hot oven say 350-400 degrees. Take the pan out every 2-3 minutes and toss the bread cubes until they reach salad3a nice golden brown. Don’t overcook them. They should be crunchy on the outside and still a little soft inside. They are addictive at this stage if you have made them right. Homemade croutons really make a difference, trust me. Next, make your Caesar salad dressing either from an earlier recipe I posted or a more classic dressing starting with egg yolks, anchovies, oil, lemon, etc. The key is good anchovies and superbly fresh ingredients such as organic eggs, good parmesan cheese, a nice olive oil, etc. Lots of freshly cracked black pepper is desired. Finally, drizzle your dressing over the romaine leaves just before serving. Drizzle dressing on the croutons and add these to the salad. Generously sprinkle everything with grated parmesan cheese. This sounds a bit involved and extravagant but it is not. Once you get the hang of it, it is incredibly simple and the cost is way below any of the mediocre Caesar salads you tend to get in Manila restaurants! My apologies for last photo that is out of focus, I was too embarrassed to photograph the finished salad in our friend’s kitchen…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. connie says:

    MM, I think I just shivered at the thought of anyone using iceberg lettuce on a caesar salad. LOL. You definitely have to use romaine on caesar, I could only imagine a watery and wilted mess using an iceberg lettuce.
    Definitely loads of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, add a grilled chicken and it’s a meal for me! For me, it’s the cheese, gotta have good cheese in it. Husband introduced me to parmigiano-reggiano, you know the real parmesan and I dare not go back to the parmesan cheese of my youth.

    Aug 23, 2006 | 10:27 am

     
  2. mojito_drinker says:

    looks good MM! reminds me of what my mama used to make when i was a kid. i can’t stand the commercial caesar salads in restaurants…

    Aug 23, 2006 | 10:51 am

     
  3. rina says:

    Your salad looks yummy! Another tip I got from a friend for a good ceasar salad is to rub the wooden salad bowl with crushed garlic for extra flavor….mmmmmmm

    Aug 23, 2006 | 11:35 am

     
  4. Gigi says:

    Fresh Fields is also available in Landmark and I just bought 4 packs last Monday! Yes, stunning romaine lettuce indeed and lovingly and meticulously arranged if I may say (this is when the lines of style and madness blur). MM, I liked the one you used and which FF sells — it’s the “sturdier” kind of Romaine — than the sibling of the lollo rosa variety — and so it does not succumb to a dressing with a thick viscosity such as the Caesar. What a blessing too that we can now eat decent lettuce (aka anything but iceberg) thanks to hydrop(h)onic gardening. Hindi ko talaga nakahiligan ang iceberg — except when it was shaven and used as filling for the Oz burger (does anyone remember?) or those cheap but great Filipinized tacos.

    I LOVE homemade croutons and like it yummy-toasty-garlicky to echo the Caesar dressing. I do this by rubbing a clove of garlic onto the bread before baking….

    MM, the salad would have made a great accompaniment to your chicken inasal and paella bounty! YUM!

    Aug 23, 2006 | 11:41 am

     
  5. Jean says:

    Love Caesar salad. Make a huge batch of the dressing and my son would spoon some of that on his bread and eat it “as is”. Hm, must get that from his father.

    Aug 23, 2006 | 11:51 am

     
  6. millet says:

    good-looking salad! i find that soaking the lettuce in an ice bath (huge bowl, plenty of very cold water and ice) crisps them up further. i agree, iceberg is so bland and tasteless, it’s like eating crisp bond paper.(not that i’ve tried eating paper!). also, new discovery for salads – something you’ll find in the junk food section of your grocery – bread pan. it’s like flavored melba toast (comes in two flavors-roasted garlic with bits of parsely, and the regular kind topped with bits of chives). incredibly cruchy and flavorful, and best of all, they’re local, and cost only about P5/pack.

    Aug 23, 2006 | 12:18 pm

     
  7. aboy says:

    mm,
    just a question: do your friends know you’re marketman or do you keep your “superhero identity” a secret? :)

    Aug 23, 2006 | 12:31 pm

     
  8. Marketman says:

    aboy, heehee. My friends mostly know I am Marketman. A few of my really preferred suppliers know who I am too. Some of my readers have met me in real life at the eyeball attended by 30 readers last November. A few of the CEO’s I have written to re:service glitches at say airlines and real estate companies know who I am too. Actually, I just keep relatively mum about it on the blog as I have run into a few lunatics on line. With a few thousand readers, one or two are bound to be a bit wacky. Anyone who has eaten in our home knows I am Marketman as well, as they have probably had to suffer a minor wait while I photograph their dinner! There’s no mystery, I just like my relative anonymity… And since the site is not commercial, I gain nothing from being recognized…

    Aug 23, 2006 | 1:03 pm

     
  9. anonymous paul says:

    i dont think i can even get past the crouton stage. i think it is imperative to make loads of croutons for further snacking; allowing for several varieties as garlic, herb, cheese, etc..

    Aug 23, 2006 | 1:10 pm

     
  10. Jean says:

    MM, which of the many Marcella Hazan’s book would you recommend?

    Aug 23, 2006 | 1:57 pm

     
  11. J says:

    MM, this is totally unrelated to your post. I was wondering if you know how to make lemongrass iced tea. I had lemongrass iced tea at view chalet recently and i lreaaly enjoyed it. I was wondering if you can help me out.

    Thanks

    Aug 23, 2006 | 2:01 pm

     
  12. Marketman says:

    Jean, we tend to use the “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” one fairly often. Though I have found most of her books to be really worth the money…

    Aug 23, 2006 | 2:01 pm

     
  13. Marketman says:

    J, I have a post on lemongrass a day or two prior to this one. In it, one of the readers describes a lemongrass tea…perhaps that would help. I haven’t made lemongrass tea myself but I suppose the idea is to boil the lemongrass to extract its flavor then add the tea and cool it down. Serve with sugared water or syrup over lots of ice… maybe add lemon or calamansi to strengthen the citrus flavor… I hope that helps!

    Aug 23, 2006 | 2:03 pm

     
  14. Gigi says:

    Millet — thanks for the Bread Pan tip. I’ll check it out!

    Aug 23, 2006 | 4:02 pm

     
  15. ragamuffin girl says:

    I used to work at a hotel in Vancouver and they would add capers to the Caesar dressing. It definitely added zing and saltiness. Yummy! Your leaves in a bowl look great!

    Aug 23, 2006 | 5:46 pm

     
  16. ragamuffin girl says:

    I also remember our exec chef making croutons using day old crusty bread or leftover ciabatta. He would tear the bread into irregular shapes with his large, beefy hands, sprinkle parmesan cheese, seasoning salt and dried mixed herbs before baking the cubes. They turned out wonderfully fragrant, a bit on the salty side and a nice bright paprika-orange color.

    Aug 23, 2006 | 5:49 pm

     
  17. aboy says:

    mm,
    speaking of that eb party last november…. isn’t it time for another one?

    Aug 23, 2006 | 6:28 pm

     
  18. Doddie from Korea says:

    I make my own caesar’s salad since I saw an original recipe printed in the English-language papers here in Korea. It was superb! Now I am on my last dregs of my anchovy supply and have used up all the worsestershire sauce for the Kentucky ribs my hubby made. Time to head for Seoul to stock up on my salad fixin’s.

    BTW, MM if you need authentic Kentucky rib marinade, just tell me. I married a Kentucky boy who’s a chef by profession.

    Aug 23, 2006 | 10:05 pm

     
  19. linda says:

    MM,I recommend slightly thick slice of chargrilled bacon pieces with your caesar salad and voila! it could be a delicious main course on it’s own.

    Aug 24, 2006 | 8:37 am

     
  20. Marketman says:

    Linda, yes grilled bacon sounds good. I once did this with thin slices of fried pancetta and it was also great. Doddie, I would love a Ketucky rib marinade…sounds terrific! aboy, let’s see about that EB… ragamuffin girl, for some reason homemade croutons do seem to get saltier sometimes but they do taste good… I tend to oversalt as well or perhpas the cooking intensifies the saltiness…

    Aug 24, 2006 | 8:48 pm

     
  21. edee says:

    MM, another EB?…oh please don’t make it earlier than Dec.18…..please!!!!

    Aug 24, 2006 | 9:09 pm

     
  22. teth says:

    Hi everybody! I am not a pro when it comes to cooking but I really love your site here.

    Aug 31, 2006 | 10:13 am

     
  23. MEL WOOD says:

    MM, does it make any difference in taste if you use a glass bowl or a wooden bowl for the salad?

    Jan 30, 2007 | 8:48 am

     
  24. Marketman says:

    Mel, I think a wooden bowl probably makes crushing the garlic a little easier as the abrasion with the wood should spread the juices all over. A wooden bowl is also like to retain some flavors since it won’t all wash off. But if you were served a salad made in the kitchen in a wooden or glass bowl, I doubt one could identify which salad came from what… so use what you have. Wood is just more classic…

    Jan 30, 2007 | 9:00 am

     
  25. Trudy says:

    Any suggestions on making a Cesar salad for 45!! We are having our son’s wedding rehearsal dinner in our back yard. He and his finance have requested Cesar salad. It is June 1,2007. My concern is wilting and becoming a big fat mess before it is time to eat. Thanks for your time and insight on my problem!!
    Trudy Dickason

    Apr 29, 2007 | 8:57 am

     
  26. Marketman says:

    Trudy, I don’t see why this should be too much of a challenge. Make lots of dressing in advance. Use a food processor and store the whole processor bowl in the fridge and blitz it a few seconds before using if it starts to separate. Try this in advance to practice to made sure it works. Next, make all the croutons ahead and store inan irtight tupperware or jar. Then clean the lettuce in advance and store in serving bowls in the fridge. Alternatively, if that is too much put them in coolers in plastic bags with ice at the bottom. Just before eating toss everthing together and voila! cesar salad for 45! Do not mix the dressing with the lettuce until the last moment. Alternatively, I have seen this catering trick used… pour the dressing to the bottom of the serving bowl, pile on the leaves, stick it in the fridge. When ready to serve, toss the salad then. That minimizes the risk of wilted leaves. Good luck!

    Apr 29, 2007 | 9:44 am

     
  27. dhayL says:

    This salad looks so good! I agree with you in using romaine hearts rather than iceberg lettuce for the salad, infact that’s what i use everytime i make cesar salad, although i still have to embark on making my own homemade dressing. The iceberg lettuce we really use it for sandwich or if we’er having burgers…

    Aug 7, 2007 | 5:29 am

     
 

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