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Solo Stays In

Chill out with a Caesar salad

Now that it looks like we could be getting some semblance of a summer, these warm evenings are perfect for relaxing with a freshly prepared salad. And whether you’re dining alone or having friends over, you can’t beat a good Caesar, properly made from scratch and served with a nice glass of chilled wine. People bemoan the fact that the Caesar is fattening but if you’re planning on staying in on a Friday or Saturday night, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself. And besides, you’re far better off eating a Caesar salad that is correctly made with fresh ingredients than going for a low-fat ready meal that’s riddled with sugar and additives.
In Ireland, the Caesar salad has long been abused. Go into any restaurant and you’re likely to find a different version in each. While the basic ingredients are known and accepted, it would seem that throwing in additions such as tomatoes, onions, avocados or, God forbid, peppers has become a national sport. The truth of the matter is that preparing a Caesar salad is a very simple process, which should be adhered to at all times in order to enjoy the flavour at its finest.
So, having said all that, how do you go about it? Well, contrary to popular belief, the original Caesar salad does not contain any anchovies but for this recipe we will include them, with the option to omit of course. Meanwhile, if you want to add croutons to your salad you’ll need approximately two cloves of freshly crushed garlic, some salt, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a cup of baguette or white bread pieces, cut into cubes of about a 1/2 inch. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, combine garlic, oil, salt and bread cubes in a bowl and mix until cubes are coated evenly. Spread the coated cubes onto a baking sheet and bake until the croutons are golden, which should take about 10 minutes. This is all very straightforward and beats buying those packaged croutons any day.
Now, for the dressing. You will need:

– 1 medium head of romaine lettuce (don’t even think about using any other type)
– 1/3 cup of olive oil (the good stuff)
– 1 teaspoon mustard
– 1 large clove freshly crushed garlic
– Pinch of salt
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
– 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 (raw) egg
– 4 anchovies (optional)

Mix the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, anchovies and mustard. Then add the raw egg and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream while constantly whisking again until smooth. Be sure to be careful with this part because if you add the oil too quickly it will ruin the dressing.
Tear the romaine lettuce into 1 to 2 inch pieces and put them in a large bowl. If you’re dining alone, chances are you won’t use up the whole head of lettuce, but it’s up to yourself. Add half the dressing, toss, then add remaining dressing, Parmesan cheese, croutons and toss again. Again, depending on whether or not you’re eating by yourself, you may not use up all the dressing. If you are a fan of anchovies you can add a few to the top of the salad now as well. And depending on your hunger level you might want to serve with some crusty bread from the bakery.
Finally, pour a lovely glass of vino and congratulate yourself that you’ve made something from scratch and have avoided buying one of those bagged salads from the supermarket where the (very processed) dressing comes in a sachet! Bon appetit!

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