Thursday, October 16, 2008

Caesar-style salad

I call this “Caesar-style” because it’s not a real Caesar salad. It does not have egg in it and includes lemon juice instead of vinegar. However, it is reminiscent of the real thing and quite tasty.

As with many of the things I prepare, I made this up. The hearts of palm are optional, but are a wonderful addition. The olives are also optional.

One of the best Caesar salads I ever had was at a Denver restaurant, Prima, where Peter and I had lunch, paid for with a gift certificate he had received as a Christmas gift. I recall my entrée was cioppino, made by a new cook at the restaurant. Our waitress was eager to know what I thought of it. After a couple of years I don’t really remember much except that, in general, I liked it.

We started lunch with a shared Caesar salad. It was a copious quantity of hearts of romaine lettuce with a delicious dressing and shaved parmesan. Indeed the salad was over-dressed, at least in terms of how we eat at home.

As it happened we had Castelvetrano olives, a very mild green variety, and romano cheese on hand. I guess the only kind of olives I would not use would be standard green ones in a jar – the kind that might be stuffed with pimento.

Caesar-style salad
1 head heart of romaine
juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tbsp
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
extra virgin olive oil
parmesan or romano cheese
salt and pepper2 pieces hearts of palm4-6 olives, any kind you like

Slice the lettuce in half lengthwise and trim the bottom end. Keep the halves intact and place each on a salad plate cut side up. Alongside the lettuce place a piece of heart of palm, sliced or not, and a few olives.

For the dressing: put the lemon juice in a bowl. Add garlic and salt and pepper and whisk in olive oil, tasting frequently, until an emulsion is formed and there is a good balance of the flavors (your judgment counts for everything here).

Stir in finely grated cheese, again to taste. Spoon dressing over the lettuce, palm and olives, and top with a bit more grated cheese if you wish.

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