Saturday, May 9, 2009

All That Romaines...

I dropped my husband off at the airport this morning. I always feel a little wistful and heartsick when I drive away from an airport, having left someone behind, even if they’re off to somewhere exciting. So on my way home I planned a heart-healing dinner. Caesar salad is comfort food for me, especially when served with Lemon-Thyme Marinated Chicken.

This recipe for Caesar salad dressing was passed on to me by Gina, a waitress who worked with my husband many years ago at Pete’s Breakfast House in Ventura, CA. It’s creamy, tangy, garlicky, anchovy-ey and not for the faint-hearted (to continue the heart theme, I guess). It is notably similar to the original Caesar dressing.

And this salad turns out to be not just heart-healing for me, but heart-healthy as well. Though the three eggs and one and one-half cups of oil might make a dietitian wince at first glance, that’s not all in one serving. The oil is extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil so it’s full of monounsaturated fats, and the eggs have everything going for them that eggs possibly could – they’re local and organic, from free-roaming chickens fed with flax seeds so that their eggs are fortified with omega-3’s.

The romaine lettuce itself contains five nutrients that are good for the heart: folic acid, vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber and potassium. Two cups of chopped romaine also contain half your daily requirement for vitamin A, so don’t be stingy with the serving size!

Caesar Salad Dressing

Makes about 4 cups of dressing, which is enough in my experience to dress 3 chopped hearts of romaine, 3-4 times, serving 2-3 people each time. The dressing stays good in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

1 tin anchovies packed in olive oil, minced
5-8 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 eggs
1-2 cups extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil
2 heads romaine lettuce, or 3 hearts of romaine

Parmesan cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Croutons (optional)

Combine first six ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well-combined. At this point I allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes to mellow the garlic and allow the flavors to blend a little before adding the eggs and oil.

Add the eggs and pulse a few times to blend well with other ingredients.

Now start adding the olive oil in a very slow stream while the food processor is running. The slower the oil is added, especially at first, the better the emulsification and the thicker and creamier the dressing will be. It will also separate less as it sits in the refrigerator. After at least one-half cup of oil has been added, you can start pouring it a little faster, but be patient.

Eventually, you should be able to hear the sound of the food processor change as the mixture thickens up. Check it after one cup oil has been added to see how you like the texture. Keep adding oil until it’s the consistency and flavor you desire. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I sometimes end up using up to two cups of oil because I like the dressing thick enough to coat the lettuce leaves. The size and freshness of the eggs, as well as the size of the lemon, will influence how much oil is needed.

Now all that remains to be done is to dress the lettuce. The original Caesar dressing was served on whole leaves of romaine lettuce, and diners picked them up at the stem end to nibble away at them like Bugs Bunny on a carrot. Try it this way, or chop the lettuce. Garnish with grated parmesan cheese, fresh ground black pepper and croutons.


1 comment:

  1. Fabulous. The picture is stunning and the title made me smile.