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.

Serungdeng Kacang

serungdeng kacang

serungdeng kacang

The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my food in the early 1980’s, when I was catering historical events in Billings, Montana.  In those days, I sought recipes that allowed me to offer thematic meals from diverse cultures and times. To my joy, I discovered a host of receipts from Indonesia; thus, I presented an Indonesian rijsttafel to my eager audiences.

I loved to act in my youth and knew the Billings’ theatrical community well.  As an aside, actors often make a living in the restaurant business; they are adept at waiting tables.  Then my creative dinners needed both excellent service and improvisation.  An incredible fit was made with my Billings’ thespian friends; thus, I frequently employed them in my catered dramas.

My favorite memory, using this partnership, was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre: I presented an authentic Moroccan dinner, for a staged “Night at Rick’s Place”.  The five winning tickets from those auctioned off-each with their three guests-were transported back to World War II in the theatre’s upstairs; this large room had been converted into Rick’s Place, from the movie Casablanca.  It was furnished with a bar off to one side of the restaurant, which consisted of five tables of four, clothed with white linen.  The city’s leading actors peopled the bar scene.  More of these, dressed in tuxedos, served the unsuspecting partakers in this suspense.

Broadway arts resulted!  Numerous brawls took place in the bar; the Gestapo arrived; guests were pick-pocketed, and on and on…Talk about fun.

My part was the researched Moroccan meal.  That afternoon, after weeks of cooking, I showed up for the final preparations in the theatre’s limited kitchen. Behold, the limits escalated upon my arrival-the stove wasn’t working!  The true test of my creativity came.  However, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates.  The meal came off triumphantly: I, in a Moroccan dress, told the innocent company the colorful history as each dish was served.

I repeated this dinner numerous times in my career, but this show never again reached the thrill of its original occurrence.  That night in Casablanca best exemplified what I did with my work then.  Now my food history presentations entertain larger audiences.  Still guests participate in dinner-theatre-type-events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful story.

Today my grand affairs mostly involve Northwest history, for which I was trained in graduate school.  However back in the 80’s and 90’s, I presented other cultures and times in my gala occasions.  Among these many thematic experiences was an Indonesian rijsttafel, which is a banquet of delicacies from this southeast Asian republic, formerly known at the Dutch East Indies.

Serungdeng kacang is a condiment for rice dishes in these ethnic feasts. My particular recipe comes from Java, one of the many islands in Indonesia. These coconut crumbs, spiced with onion and garlic, are spread liberally over the rice portions, in addition to a variety of other garnishes.

Serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is also compatible with Indian curries; acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre; and, my favorite, it provides the crowning touch to salads!  Keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand. Make a double batch and keep it in a sealed storage bag.  The beauty of this topping lasts indefinitely.

simple mincing of onion

simple mincing of onion

Serungdeng Kacang  Yields: 3 cups.  Total prep time: 1 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min.

6 tbsp yellow onion, minced  (You will need a medium/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)

6 medium/large garlic cloves, chopped fine

2 tbsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important; available in the health section of local supermarkets.)

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality.)

2 cups unsweetened coconut chips  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)

1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

  1. An easy way to mince onion is to peel it, leaving the root on; next, score it by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the other direction (see photo).  When onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife.
  2. Start by measuring 6 tbsp of minced onion; save rest of onion for other cooking.  With a mortar and pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt.  When this is a thick puree, set aside.  (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
  3. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium/low heat.  Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it turns brown, oil is ready for cooking.
  4. Meantime mix together coconut and onion mixture in a large bowl.  Make sure coconut is completely coated.
  5. When oil is hot, add coconut mixture; stir well to coat coconut with oil; cook 20 minutes, or until golden brown in color and slightly wet.  Stir every 5 minutes, so as not to burn.  (Let it cook for full 5-minute increments, however; this allows for the coconut to brown.)
  6. When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice now.  Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the pan.
  7. Remove from heat and be sure to cool in skillet; this completes the drying process.  (See top photo for finished product.)
  8. Keep in a sealed storage bag, lasts for months.

Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad

 

sprouted quinoa and yam salad

sprouted quinoa and yam salad

Sherry, my beloved friend from Montana, sent me this healthy recipe, which I improved on.  It literally sings in your mouth!

I learned about quinoa from a woman who healed terminal illnesses with food; she was on my sister’s prayer team many years ago.  People from all over the United States were going to Jeanette for her healing ministry with diet; thus, her culinary wisdom became a gold mine for my sister Maureen and me.  Many things that I now recommend originated with her.

We learned that sprouted quinoa was considered the number one power food on planet earth.  Eggs and quinoa are the only foods that have all the amino acids, thus making them a complete protein.

I was a vegetarian for six years in my twenties.  Back then, much of my knowledge for healthy eating came from the marvelous cookbook by Francis Moore Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet (New York: Ballantine Books, 1971).  These recipes utilized balanced combinations of plant foods and dairy; the combining of their differing amino acids complimented each other to make complete proteins.  For instance, its memorable Indian Pudding called for a balance of cornmeal, soy grits, milk, and eggs to form a strong protein-how I relished it hot, with rich vanilla ice cream melting around the edges (I still do).

I was quite skilled in cooking this way in the 1970’s.  Just prior to moving to Tokyo in the fall of 1981, however, I began eating meat once again.  My father gently reproved me for waiting until this move to do so, because beef was exorbitantly expensive in Japan, while being relatively cheap in America.  My thinking was that  I needed to be prepared for gracious Oriental hospitality.

Recently I made my friend Sherry’s simple recipe for quinoa and yam salad; nevertheless, I tweaked it.  Its food value is amplified by using what I learned from my sister’s prayer partner, the healer Jeanette.  Here I sprouted this ancient grain from Peru, which increases its food value dramatically.  Also I worked with the colors of the foods (color is real important); I incorporated red raspberries, purple sweet potato, and orange carrots.  Another important recommendation is the use of coconut or avocado oil, which is critical, as olive oil is a carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.

This healthy salad is dynamite!  Make an abundance of it for leftovers.

Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time 2 days (for sprouting quinoa)/  active prep time: 1 hr.

1 c quinoa, sprouted  (Sprouting directions are below; make 2 days ahead.)

1 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med yellow onion,  cut in even 1/8-inch slices

1 1/2 c yams, peeled and cut in 5/8-inch cubes  (Organic purple sweet potatoes are ideal; sweet potatoes and yams are just differing names for the same vegetable; they are interchangeable.)

2 med carrots, cut in 5/8-inch cubes

2 stalks celery, cut in 5/8-inch cubes

4 lg garlic cloves, chopped fine  (For easy preparation, may use 2 frozen garlic cubes from Trader Joe’s.)

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp Bragg’s Amino Acids  (Available in any health store.)

1 tbsp real maple syrup

3/4 tsp dried cumin

Spinach or lettuce leaves

Fresh raspberries or dried cranberries, for garnish

Agave-roasted nuts  (See recipe in ‘Healthy Green Salads’, 2016/08/15.)

  1. Soak quinoa in ample water for 8 hours; drain well and let sit for 1-2 days, rinsing about every 8-12 hours.  The sprouting is complete when legs are at least 1/4 inch long.  (The sprouting may be done in a special sprouting jar, a bowl, or on a tray-if your choice is a tray, use parchment paper both under and on top of the grain.)  Note: this process brings the enzymes alive and increases food value dramatically.  For more details on sprouting see wikihow.com/Sprout-Quinoa
  2. For saving sprouted quinoa, place it in a sealed storage bag or jar, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.  Optional: if you are not ready to use the sprouts immediately, you may, with the use of clean parchment paper, spread them on a tray or large plate, to allow excess moisture to dry from sprouts (be sure not to rinse again before you start this drying process).  They should dry in about 12 hours; this aids in long-term storage.
  3. Heat oil in a large frying pan over med/low heat; add onion and caramelize, cook slowly until deep brown in color.  Stir every few minutes until onions begin sticking to bottom of pan and color just starts to turn; then, stir every minute, until dark brown.  For more detail on caramelizing onions, see Caramelized Onions and Carrots (2017/06/19).
  4. In the meantime, spray vegetables with an effective, safe solution (combine 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle); let sit for three minutes; rinse really well.  This kills parasites and cleanses inexpensively.
  5. Rather than peel carrots, scrape them with a sharp knife, to preserve vitamins just under the skin.  Peel yams.  Cut all vegetables into small, 5/8-inch cubes, set aside.
  6. Combine lemon juice, Braggs, maple syrup, and cumin in a large bowl; set aside.
  7. Add vegetables to hot caramelized onions; stir well to distribute oils.   Place 1/4 c water in with vegetables and cook covered, over medium heat,  for about 15 minutes, or until yams are tender, stirring occasionally.
  8. Blend fresh garlic into vegetable mixture; sauté only until you can smell the herb, about 20 seconds (if you are using frozen garlic, cook just until it thaws, stirring well).
  9. Place yam mixture and quinoa in bowl with salad dressing, mix well, chill several hours.
  10. Serve on a bed of lettuce or fresh spinach.
  11. Top with fruit and nuts.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

I acquired my beloved vinaigrette recipe in enchanting Paris.  There I learned the secrets to this simple receipt in the fall of 1985.

At that time I cooked many historical meals at a French friend’s apartment, close to the Louvre. Mornings found me seeking needed ingredients at a profusion of quaint Parisian shops.  There was much mercy for my broken French among the shop owners, who grew to know me.

A flurry of grand entertainment resulted from the hosting of these elaborate meals.  Our varied guests returned warm hospitality in their abodes on alternate nights.  My passion for art galleries quickened during the days when they reciprocated our harmonious feasting.

Indeed, Paris charmed me during that September in the mid-1980s!

My balsamic vinaigrette is extremely simple.  (We used raspberry vinegar for this same recipe in Paris.)  I always dress my famous salads with this balsamic and my father’s blue cheese dressing, which is next week’s tantalizing post.

Peggy’s Balsamic Vinaigrette  Yields: about 22 ounces.  Total prep time: 20 min. Note: may repeat these easy steps to make a double batch; keeps well when refrigerated; any kind of vinegar may be substituted for the balsamic.

5 large cloves of garlic, more to taste if smaller

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar  (Use protected Aceto Balsamico from Modena, Italy, which can be expensive, available reasonably at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano leaves  (A great, organic dried oregano is available at Trader’s for $1.99.)

1 tsp dried basil leaves  (Also a bargain at Trader’s.)

1/4 tsp sugar, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is best, at hand in natural foods section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1 tsp high quality mustard  (Aiola mustard from Trader’s is ideal.)

1 cup Bel’Olio Extra Light Olive Oil  (I prefer this light olive oil, available at Costco; other olive oils are strong in taste.)

  1. Peel and cut garlic cloves in half; place in a dry 11-cup, or larger, food processor; chop garlic, stopping machine twice to scrape down sides.  IF you are making two recipes, chop the garlic for both at once; set half aside. (If you don’t have a food processor, may chop cloves fine with a sharp knife; may also use a Vita Mix or blender to make dressing.)
  2. Add vinegar, herbs, sugar, salt, pepper, and mustard to the garlic.
  3. Turn on processor; leave running.
  4. pouring oil in feeder

    Fill the feeder with oil. (The feeder is the plunger that fits in the top of the food processor; it has a small hole in the bottom of it; this allows the oil to drip into vinegar mixture slowly, thus emulsifying the dressing; see photo.) Use all the oil in this manner.  If you are using a blender, be sure to add oil very slowly, blending as you go to emulsify dressing.

  5. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Note: the garlic should taste really strong, as it mellows dramatically after a couple of days.
  6. Pour into bottles, using a funnel.  Save used glass jars for this purpose; be sure to sterilize.
  7. Keeps in the refrigerator for months, or at room temperature for several weeks.  It’s often necessary to leave dressing out at room temperature, for at least an hour before using, when stored in the refrigerator, as the cold oil sometimes solidifies.  Hot tap water will melt the solid oil, also.

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.  (Real Salt is best, available in the nutrition center of your local supermarket.)
  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: may dry bread out for 8 hr ahead of time.

  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.  Be sure to get “regular cut”, not “thin cut”.)
  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 more if you like spice.  Stir in 1 tsp salt, or to taste.  (Real Salt is best.)  Mix seasoning well in 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.