Creative Caesar Salads

creative Caesar salad topped with serungdeng kacang

When I was growing up, we lived in the small resort town of East Glacier Park, Montana, which is the east entrance to Glacier National Park; there were only 250 residents at the foot of these glorious Rocky Mountains.  Because of our town’s minuscule size, it was necessary to travel to larger cities to take care of our major shopping needs, such as school clothes every late summer.  Usually we traveled within our State, 150 miles east to Great Falls; on special occasions, we ventured as far away as Spokane, Washington.  I can still feel the thrill as we prepared, in the early morning dark, to leave on these revered journeys.

During the extra special trips to Spokane, the Ridpath Hotel captivated me; we ate many dinners in its plush dining room, always partaking in their Caesar salad, which came with the pomp and flair of table-side service.  My young heart was even then preparing for my career in food history, for I was fascinated by the coddling of the egg, with the torch used for that purpose; in like manner, I rhapsodized over the delight of the powerful garlic on my tender tongue.

To this day I love Caesar salad; I share a recipe here that lives up to this enduring mental monument.  Be prepared to enjoy.

There are several accounts of how this famous dish began.  After much research, I chose to attribute its origin to the Italian chef Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), who created this American classic at his well-known restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, when in 1924 he was serving an unusual number of Californian visitors, escaping there for the Fourth of July weekend during prohibition.  This original production was served table side, without anchovies, and included whole lettuce leaves, which were eaten by the stems, using one’s fingers.

Caesar salad enhanced with beans

There are numerous opposing views on the safety of coddled eggs.  Some profess that they are not a threat: it is adequate to place the eggs in rapidly boiling water, remove the pan from the heat, and then allow the eggs to cook for 60 seconds; indeed, this technique provides the best taste.  Others propound that holding eggs at 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) for five minutes kills potential contaminants, such as salmonella; this can also be achieved instantly by heating them to 160 degrees F (71 degrees C).  Still others declare that uncooked and under-cooked eggs are not safe at all; they rigidly promote the use of either hard-boiled or pasteurized eggs; the latter are available in some grocery stores.  Note: it is important to use caution in highly susceptible populations, such as small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with health problems.

Here I cover this dilemma with two good solutions: my favorite version of this dressing is made with coddled eggs, which have been cooked for 60 seconds; nonetheless, for times when extra special care is needed, I provide a method of heating the prepared dressing to 160 degrees; this last procedure, however, thickens our treasured concoction quite a lot.  With both of these two options, the powerful recollected taste from my youth is maintained, which is heightened even further with strong combinations of foods in my creative Caesar salads.

References:

https://whatscookingamerica.net/CaesarSalad.htm

www.reluctantgourmet.com/caesar-salad/

www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/we-can-thank-tijuana-and-prohibition-caesar-salad

www.ochef.com/447.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/coddled_egg

www.safeeggs.com/blog/will-the-real-safe-caesar-salad-recipe-please-stand-up/

finished Caesar dressing

Caesar Salad Dressing  Yields: about 1 1/2 cups.  Total prep time: 30 min.  If cooking the dressing, total prep time is 45 min.

3 fresh, free-range eggs, at room temperature  (Place in warm water for 10-15 minutes.)

2 tbsp fresh garlic

1 tbsp cider vinegar  (Raw is best; available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

1 scant tbsp Dijon mustard  (Aioli Garlic Mustard from Trader’s is also excellent.)

2 small lemons, juiced

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 dashes of Worcestershire

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 anchovy, optional

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in natural foods section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

3/4 cup olive oil  (Personally I prefer a light olive oil for flavor; Bel’Olio from Costco is great.)

  1. Use room temperature eggs, by placing them in warm water for 10-15 minutes.  For health reasons, it is important that they are washed, free-range, and fresh.  (I feel comfortable with coddled eggs; these make the best dressing, but if you are sensitive to them, or storing this dressing for more than 4-5 days, take the extra precaution of cooking it as described in step 6-better yet use pasteurized eggs, which are available in some grocery stores.)
  2. coddling eggs

    For coddled eggs, bring a small pan of water to a boil over high heat; prepare an ice bath, using a bowl of cold water with ice cubes.  Place eggs in rapidly boiling water; quickly remove from heat; let them sit for 60 seconds; then, immediately transfer to the ice bath, to the stop cooking process.  Crack them on side of bowl, scooping coddled egg out of shell with a spoon, set aside (see photo).

  3. Meanwhile mince 2 tablespoons of garlic: easily do so by filling a coffee measure, which is 2 tablespoons, with peeled garlic cloves, cut in small pieces, until it is full; then, chop this in a food processor by repeatedly pressing pulse button; set aside.  (TO MAKE DRESSING BY HAND: chop the garlic with a sharp knife; mix all ingredients, except the oil, in a medium/small bowl; then, beat in the oil SLOWLY, to emulsify the dressing.  May also make this in a VitaMix or blender.)
  4. Juice the lemons, set aside.
  5. Add all ingredients, except the oil, to the garlic in the processor.  Turn on machine and blend; place oil in the feeder, which is located on the top (see this feeder in above photo of finished product); thus, oil will drip in slowly for an emulsified dressing.  Adjust seasonings.  This will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days; for longer storage, go to the next step.  Serve on the creative salads given lastly.
  6. For cooked dressing, prepare an ice bath, using a large bowl with a smaller one inserted in center (see photo).  Prepare Caesar dressing as described in steps 2-

    cooked dressing cooling in ice bath

    5; transfer this mixture to a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan; cook dressing over low heat, stirring constantly, until this egg mixture reaches 160 degrees F (71 degrees C); immediately place in the ice bath to cool, adding more ice as needed.  Note: the dressing will thicken as it cooks. Serve on salads described below.

  7. I like to be creative with my Caesar salads; here are two suggestions for using foods that highly complement this excellent dressing.  First: mix greens, sweet onion, avocado, Parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons (2016/08/15); then, top this with serungdeng kacang, which is crispy coconut chips and peanuts sautéed with a garlic/onion puree (2017/01/09).  Second: mix greens, Parmesan cheese, homemade croutons, and beans; legumes really accentuate the flavor of this dressing!  Enjoy.

Healthy Green Salads

building a healthy salad

building a healthy salad

Strength-giving salads have been the mainstay of my evening meals for many years; they delight me. Recently I taught a class on how to maintain robust bodies by building wholesome salads.  This next series spells pleasure in hearty recipes for glorious greens and more.  Here I begin with the basic steps for creating these leafy dishes.

Healthy Salads

A variety of vibrant greens are good for the body. Spinach is high in iron, but too much of this raw vegetable is not wise.  So balance raw and cooked spinach.  A little vitamin C (tomatoes, citrus, pineapple, etc.) helps the absorption of the iron.

Beef or chicken can be added.  These meats are high in iron and protein.  Good quality eggs, beans, tuna, and cheese are also excellent protein sources.

Dried fruit (dates, cranberries, apricots, figs, raisins…organic is best) add a beautiful contrast of sweetness.  Avocados are dynamite!

Choose an assortment of fresh vegetables, such as carrots, celery, radishes, bell peppers, etc.  It’s important to use organic peppers, as this vegetable really absorb pesticides.   Organic carrots are really inexpensive.

Roasted agave nuts (see recipe below) and homemade croutons (see recipe below) add texture and protein.  Note: organic bread is a good protein source.

Nourishing homemade dressings save lots of money and explode with good flavor. (Recipes to follow in upcoming posts.)

Roasted Agave Nuts  Yields: 1 lb.  Total prep time: 50 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  baking time: 40 min.

  1. Buy 1 lb of an assortment of whole raw pecans, almonds, walnuts, and cashews in the bulk food section.  (Cashew pieces work well and are cheaper.)  I like to weigh out ¼ lb packages of each at the store.
  2. Preheat oven to 265 degrees.
  3. In a large bowl, pour 1/4 cup Organic Raw Blue Agave Sweetener.  (Available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)  Blend in 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste) and 2 tsp cinnamon.
  4. Add 1 lb of mixed raw nuts.  Stir well, until all the nuts are coated.
  5. Cover an 11 ½ x 17 ½ cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Spray parchment really well with spray oil (Pam Coconut Spray Oil is best.)  This is essential, or nuts stick to the paper.
  6. Spread nuts evenly on oiled parchment.  Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven.  Sprinkle generously with salt WHILE HOT.  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)
  8. Nuts must be hot for salt to stick.  IF you forget to salt while hot, place them in hot oven again, until they are reheated.  Then salt and cool.  Break apart and store in sealed container at room temperature. Keeps well.

Homemade Croutons  Yields: 1/2 gallon-size storage bag.  Total prep time: about 1 1/4 hr/ active prep time: 15 min/  baking time: about 1 hr.  Note: dry bread out, for 8 hr ahead of time, on a cookie sheet.

  1. May use gluten-free, homemade bread, Dave’s Killer Bread, or Franz organic Great Seed. (I grind my own organic wheat berries for my bread, however, croutons from store-bought bread aren’t as hard as that made from my homemade bread.  I prefer Franz organic bread, which makes an excellent crouton high in nutrients and protein.)
  2. Make sure bread is stale.  May partially dry by leaving it exposed to the air for up to 8 hours.  You may store bread in a sealed plastic bag after drying, if you are not ready to bake immediately.  Don’t get bread super stale, or the butter won’t distribute evenly.  Expose slices for about 8 hours in the humid Northwest; adjust time for a drier climate.  Bread should be somewhat dried out, firm to the touch, but not hard.
  3. Preheat oven to 265 degrees.
  4. Cut bread in cubes.  Use 1/2 of 1 lb loaf of bread for one large cookie sheet.
  5. Melt 6 ounces of butter in a large frying pan.
  6. Add 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste.  Stir in 1 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is best).  Mix seasoning well into melted butter.
  7. Add bread cubes.  Stir thoroughly, until bread is fairly evenly coated.
  8. Place bread cubes on an 11 ½ x 17 ½ inch cookie sheet, distributing evenly so heat can reach all.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes.  Check for dryness; if not crunchy, bake for 15 more minutes.  Repeat this last step until croutons are completely dried.
  10. Cool and store at room temperature in a sealed gallon-size storage bag. They keep indefinitely.