Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hail To The Caesar

I get in food ruts. Actually rut has kind of a bad, boring connotation so let’s say instead that I get in food moods. And these moods last for months at a time. Last year I was in a crab cake mood for 3-4 months and so every time I went out to eat (more or less) I ordered crab cakes. I also tried THREE TIMES to make them at home and barely made it to mediocre so a spectacular crab cake is still on my cooking wish list. This year, as you may have realized, I was on a burger kick for a while – all kinds of burgers from turkey to beef and lamb, not to mention veggie. But now another mood has taken hold of me and won’t let go. And this is a Caesar Salad kind of mood.

Seriously, can you go wrong with a Caesar salad? The zippy dressing? The crisp romaine? The CROUTONS dear God the Croutons. Have it as an appetizer or throw some grilled chicken on there and have it as an entrée. It is the perfect food (at least it has been for me over the past few months)

So it’s no surprise that I searched high and low for the perfect recipe and finally got it together last week. On Epicurious.com t hey have just such a Caesar Salad recipe that perfectly captures the zesty awesomeness of Caesar dressing and not to mention the PERFECT herbed crouton

I must warn you: this is a true blue Caesar salad which means, of course, you will have to get into the anchovy and all it’s slimy.salty goodness.



mmmmmmmmm.



Don't worry though - the dressing is perfect – everything you want in a Caesar dressing and easy to prepare to boot.

Let’s get to it

Caesar Salad with Herbed Croutons

For dressing
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
8 anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil

For croutons and salad
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 3/4-inch-thick country bread slices, crusts cut off, bread cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 4 cups total)
12 cups coarsely torn hearts of romaine (about 9 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cracked black pepper

Make dressing:

Combine 1/2 cup Parmesan, anchovies, lemon juice, 3 garlic cloves, and mustard in processor.



Blend well. With processor running, slowly add olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.



Make croutons and salad:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary; saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.



Remove from heat. Add bread cubes to skillet with garlic-herb oil and toss to coat. Spread out bread cubes on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake just until croutons are golden, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.



Place romaine in large bowl. Add 2/3 cup dressing and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Add croutons and toss well. Serve, passing remaining dressing, Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper separately.

Ooooooooh.



Ahhhhhhhhh.



Helpful hints:

* I used regular sandwich wheat bread for my croutons and they came out great! Use whatever bread you have around and even if they feel a little soft when they come out of the oven it's okay, they crunch up as they cool.

* I added grilled chicken to mine since I was serving it for dinner. You can either make the dressing ahead of time and marinade the chicken in a bit of it before grilling, OR just salt and pepper and add whatever seasonings you like.

* This serves about 6-8 people so if you are not going to be consuming all of it then only put the dressing on what you will be eating, so you can save the rest of salad for later and it won't be soggy!