Homegrown and HomemadeA
pparently, lettuce likes summer rain because I’ve had a bumper crop of lettuce this season and that’s about the only think I am loving about this wet season that we are having.
With so many leafy varieties doing so well in our garden this year, I’ve really had a chance to work on matching the different textures and flavors of the varietals with different meals, and finding the perfect dressings to accompany them. The delicate, silky nature of the butter lettuce and red oak varieties take well to simple dressings like a lemon vinaigrette. Anything more than a squeeze of fresh lemon, splash of olive oil, salt and pepper overpowers the delicate eaves.. When I match those varieties with a heavier meal, like chicken parmesan, I find the meal to be harmonious. On the other hand, the romaine is hearty and can stand up to a bolder flavor and a thicker texture- which is why it’s the preferred lettuce choice for a classic, tangy caesar dressing.
Caesar dressing is very, very popular. I am confident that it is the most common item on menus across the country, meaning that just about every restaurant has a version of caesar salad on it. Given it’s popularity, it amazes, and disappoints me, that nine out of ten times I order it, it’s really not impressive. Some places serve more of a vinaigrette version, while others are garlic forward and creamy, some with raw egg, others with cream. Personally, I like a tangy, creamy, salty caesar. I don’t see how it can be any other way.
Having never made homemade caesar dressing before, I really wasn’t sure where to start or how to select a good recipe. So I decided to make three versions, one of which contained no egg. I was hoping I was going to like it the no egg version but unfortunately it came in last in the taste test. You simply need the egg.
The winning recipe turned out to be Michael Chirarello’s recipe. Over time I have tweaked it slightly to create a version that we really enjoy.
- 1 large egg yolk- at room temperature
- 1.5 tablespoons of dijon mustard
- A dash of dry mustard if you have it.
- 4 quality anchovy filets
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- dash worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup good quality parmesan cheese. I like a parmesan/romano mix
Place the egg yolk, mustard, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce in a blender or food processor. Blend until pureed. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. If the dressing stops moving in the blender, stop the machine, add the warm water and then continue until all the oil is added. To finish, add the cheese and pulse to incorporate. Taste and adjust your seasonings.
Toss with Romaine lettuce leave and croutons, if desired.