Summertime is salad time at my house. Salads that are full of fresh seasonal veggies and have the crunch factor. There is a salad I eat only on special occasions but I don’t know why I don’t make it more often. It is that good. I have it every year for my birthday party entrée. This recipe is a Drake family holiday tradition started by my parents long ago. The Full Caesar. It is a variation on the Caesar salad found in The Joy of Cooking by Rombauer and Becker, page 96, my copy of which is well used…slightly stained with tomato juice and other salad ingredients… A salad that is legendary in how much we each consume. Long ago, my dad used to like to experiment with his recipe and I shudder to think of the weird things he added sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of ingredients in this salad but I draw the line at blue cheese or even worse, cheddar cheese! Blah! I am the one who puts it together when we gather and there is never any cheese but real Parmesan cheese in our caesar salad.
Anyway, this salad is a meal in itself. If you are lazy you can buy a Caesar dressing; check for gf on the label. I always make it from scratch but I leave that choice to you. The coddled eggs blends in with the lemon juice, olive oil and red wine vinegar to make an authentic dressing. I am not a big anchovy fan but it really adds a special under flavor; you can’t really tell it’s in there but it adds a lot of authenticity to the dressing. I bake my own French bread and we have a loaf with a meal and the next day the leftover bread becomes the croutons for this salad. Use any gf white bread you like. Don’t use bought croutons; they are so so much more delicious when you make them fresh.
This is a show stopper salad that is always put together table side when we have it. Some of my siblings make it too and they do it very similarly to this recipe. It is a delightful treasure hunt for the various additions we have grown to love in our Caesar. Manga!
Real Caesar Salad – for six
½ cup good olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 big heads of romaine lettuce
6 slices bacon
1 Tsp. salt
½ Tsp. dry mustard
½ Tsp. freshly ground pepper (only fresh will do!)
2-3 fillets of anchovy mashed to a paste or 1-2 tsp. anchovy paste
½ Tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbsp. tiny capers
1 14 oz. can hearts of palm
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts
A pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
Half a loaf of gf French bread
Preparation the night before; put the peeled garlic clove in the olive oil to stand for at least 4 to 12 hours. Boil six of the eggs and chill, in shell.
Salad Day: chop the bacon into ½ inch chunks and fry until crisp; drain on paper towel.
Peel the hard boiled eggs and slice into about 5-6 rounds each, set aside. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. You can use any kind of tomato; the riper the better. Just cut into bite sized pieces. Wash and tear the romaine into 1-2 inch squares; be sure to dry it in the salad spinner. Put it all in a big bag and chill in the fridge. Slice the hearts of palm into 1/3 inch rounds, cut the artichoke hearts in halves or quarters.
Cut the French bread into cubes, heat 2 tbsp. of the garlicky olive oil in a large frying pan and add the bread cubes, cook on medium heat tossing often until they are browned some and crisp. Set aside until time to assemble the salad.
The Big Assembly:
Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl; even a big stainless steel pot or wok will work. Add the salt, pepper, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and the anchovy paste. Toss.
In a small pot; heat water to boil; add one egg and cook for 90 seconds. This is the coddled egg, necessary for the dressing.
Start adding in the good stuff; the sliced hard boiled eggs, capers, the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, tomato halves, fried bacon. Stir gently. Add red wine vinegar, the remaining 5-6 tbsp. of olive oil, the coddled egg which you broke in half with a knife and scooped out with a spoon right into the salad. It will totally disappear into the dressing. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and add the fresh parmesan you just grated as well as the freshly fried croutons. Note: Do NOT use pre-grated cheese! Heresy… Stir gently and thoroughly to spread the dressing around well and mix the ingredients. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed plus add more vinegar and olive oil if there isn’t enough dressing. We always discuss whether there is the right amount of dressing and have been known to add more to it tasting to be sure to balance the flavors so it is perfect.
Serve on a big dinner plate. Enjoy!
I have been known to eat any leftovers the next day for lunch; still delicious even if the croutons get soggy.