Hello again, my lovely reader! I have a good one for you today. Well, three good ones…
I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of eating a Caesar salad where all the components are made from scratch. Back in the mid-90’s when I was a poor university student, I remember going to an Italian restaurant called Luna Pizza where they made Caesar salad at your table… so fancy! The best part was that it was only $5 for a huge salad! Lots of bang for your buck. Even now, when I go out for dinner and they offer table-side Caesar salad, I am compelled to order it. I love how fresh the salad tastes when everything is fresh and homemade.
I’m not a snob. That sounded snobby. Like I wouldn’t eat your salad if it was all store-bought ingredients. That’s not what I’m saying. I love many store-bought ingredients; I could eat Renée’s Mighty Garlic Caesar dressing with a spoon and you can’t go wrong with a bag of crusty sourdough croutons. But when you do want to get fancy, and you have some time, it’s fun to make Caesar salad from scratch. Yes?
LET’S TALK ABOUT CAESAR DRESSING
There is something so satisfying about a recipe you just dump into a food processor. Some purists will insist that you must use a bowl and a whisk to make your emulsion… these people are chumps. Whiz it, I say!!
This dressing is like a combo of Ranch, Dill, and Caesar, and it’s heavy on the garlic; You might not like that, so proceed with caution. I like it, and that’s what counts. If you’re worried about my recipe, you can adjust the seasonings based on your own personal preference. I like dill and lots of garlic, so I always add more than the recipe calls for. Feel free to skimp on the things you don’t like as much and go crazy with the stuff you love. Within reason, of course.
WHAT ARE CAPERS?
Capers are the little flower buds from the Capparis spinosa, or caper bush, which grows all over the Mediterranean. The buds are pickled in salt and vinegar and taste peppery and mustardy, perfect for Caesar salad dressing.
A WORD ABOUT ANCHOVIES
I know the idea of putting salty little fishies in your salad dressing makes you want to hurl. Say the word “anchovy” to anyone, and they turn up their noses and make gagging sounds. I know this because I used to be that person. That is, until I made this salad dressing and left them out and used normal salt instead; the dressing was weak and lacklustre and I didn’t even want to eat it. What a waste. Anchovies really add a lovely salty quality to the dressing, not to mention a savoury, umami undertone that the dressing needs. You can get anchovy paste as opposed to a tin of fish if that makes you happier. Just don’t be a fool like me and leave it out.
This Caesar dressing is perfect for when you’re cooking at home and want to impress your guests… “Let me just whiz up some salad dressing.” Make sure they see you put the anchovies in and watch them as they take a bite of your salad at dinner. They will be pleasantly surprised that the dressing doesn’t taste fishy and you’ll feel like a hero!
TABASCO OR CHOLULA?
The recipes I’ve looked at online do not include hot sauce; it’s not a traditional ingredient, I guess. So of course, not being a rule-follower, I put it in my recipe. I like the Cholula because it’s not truly hot, just mild and tangy. It gives a little kick to the dressing, which I like. You can use Tabasco if you like a bit more heat, but go easy initially, taste your sauce, and add more if you must. If you like to follow rules, feel free to omit; it will still taste great!
SPEAKING OF NOT FOLLOWING RULES…
We’ve already established I’m a rule-breaker since I use a food processor as opposed to whisking by hand. The whole recipe I make goes against the rules, really. Homemade Caesar dressing usually has a combination of egg yolk, vinegar, and olive oil as its base, but my version uses real mayonnaise instead. I like my Caesar salad dressing thick and creamy as opposed to thin and oily. It all comes down to personal preference. Use a bit less mayonnaise if you like your dressing thinner and sharper-flavoured.
It all comes down to this: you really can’t mess this recipe up. Adjust the amounts of your favourite ingredients and experiment… find the recipe that works for you. It’s still a Caesar salad if you believe it is.
Creamy Homemade Caesar Dressing
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp Cholula or other hot sauce
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp capers
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp each basil and oregano
- 1/2 tsp each dill and onion powder
- 2 oz anchovy paste (a whole tin of anchovies)
- 1 tsp sugar
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 3 cups mayonnaise (a whole big jar, really)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- Pepper, to taste
1. In a bowl attached to a food processor, add the parmesan cheese, garlic, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, capers, Dijon mustard, basil, oregano, dill, onion powder, anchovy paste, cayenne pepper, and sugar.
2. Give it a whiz until it’s combined.
3. Add your mayonnaise. Process until combined.
4. In the opening at the top of the food processor cover, pour in the oil slowly and and whiz until combined. Do the same with the vinegar.
5. Give it a good stir and give it a taste; season accordingly. Put in a mason jar or other container and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavours come together.
Homemade Parmesan Croutons
Do you feel fancy? I usually do.
It happens all the time… I buy a baguette to go with dinner, decide to order Chinese food, and I have a hard, forgotten baguette that goes straight into the trash the next day. However, you can use that day-old hard bread to make homemade croutons! Delightful!
- 1 loaf day-old French, Italian, or Sourdough bread, cut into 3/4” cubes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp melted butter
- 1 tsp Cholula
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp each basil, oregano, paprika and salt
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Or use a stoneware baking sheet and forget parchment.
2. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Make sure the bread cubes are all the same size so the croutons cook evenly.
3. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, melted butter, Cholula, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the mixture over the bread. Toss until all of the bread cubes are well coated.
4. Spread the bread cubes onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure the bread cubes are in an even layer and not touching. If they are too close and overlapping, they won’t cook evenly and won’t crisp up.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through, or until the croutons are golden brown.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
7. Store croutons in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Traditional Caesar Salad
When Steve and I went to Paris in July, 2014, I ordered Caesar salad a lot. And every place I went to had a different version. It became quite a fun game to order it and see what I’d get. From that moment on, I always add weird things to my Caesar salads because I usually feel fancy and I don’t like to follow rules.
- a head of Romaine lettuce
- 1/2 cup bacon bits
- a handful of croutons (homemade or store-bought)
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved
- lemon wedges
- Cucumbers, tomatoes, boiled egg, green beans, apple slices, raisins, sunflower seeds, sliced sweet peppers… any “add-ons” you might want to put in your salad to fancy it up
- Homemade dressing (like a boss!)
1. Wash your lettuce and dry it with paper towels. Chop it into bite-size pieces. Put it in a big bowl.
2. In a pan on medium heat, fry up your chopped bacon until crisp. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel. Let cool.
3. Put the croutons, bacon bits, and any “add-ons” on top of your lettuce.
4. Put some dressing on top. Toss the salad…
5. Serve alongside any pasta dish or put grilled chicken on top for a Chicken Caesar Salad. Yum! Garnish with lemon wedges and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.