Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fast, Fake-o Caesar Salad Dressing

If you've read my blog over the years, you know that I am in chef-love with two people: John Besh (our honeymoon of foodies) and Mark Bittman. Either one of them I would fly five thousand miles to cook with and welcome into my kitchen any time. I imagine that sharing a kitchen with these guys would be relaxed, full of laughs and, yes, a major learning experience. But a good one.

Just this past week I made (yet again) Besh's chicken and sausage gumbo from his latest cookbook, Besh Big Easy. Even Marley, our dog, loves it. And Bittman? Bittman is the most popular reference book in our house. We crack open (and have given away) How to Cook Everything more times than I can count.

One of our go-to recipes of Bittman's is his Caesar salad. It's the real deal, with anchovies and lemon, coddled egg and big, fat croutons. The problem: it does take, like, 10 minutes of forethought to make it (coddling the egg, not to mention the croutons), and the other night, I didn't have an extra 10 minutes. I needed to throw everything in a jar, shake it up, and be done. Company was coming.

So I cheated—big time. Yes, I used romaine lettuce and lots of finely grated (with a pinhole grater) Parmesan cheese, but no croutons. And the dressing? This is what I threw together:
  • 1/2 tsp. oil from an anchovy tin (if I had time, I would have minced up an anchovy, but I didn't)
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • juice from 1/2 a large lemon
  • 2 Tblsp. champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
I shook that like crazy in a jar, and voila! Fake-o and fast Caesar dressing—liked so much by my guest that I was asked for the recipe, so here you are!

Things I think I would try next time, continuing in super-fast, cheater fashion: add a bit of garlic powder to get a bit of that garlicky flavor in there. And maybe a couple drops of Worcestershire sauce to add a little depth. Bittman puts that in his Caesar dressing, and I think that's why. 

Speaking of salad dressings, if you want to nix another item from your shopping list because 1) it's full of crap and 2) it's a total waste of money, make it salad dressing. Spend the money, instead, on a variety of different vinegars (balsamic, red wine, white wine, champagne, rice wine, apple cider) and some Californian olive oil (don't buy Italian unless from a trusted source; you aren't guaranteed to be actually getting what you think you are buying) and make your own at home. Dressings are generally about 3 parts oil to 1 part acid plus a little bit of an emulsifier, like Dijon mustard, egg, honey, mayo...then seasonings. Even drizzling your salad with olive oil, tossing, then drizzling with a little vinegar, and tossing again is shockingly good. My Grandma Paola taught me that.

And something else I have learned to do that really makes a difference with salad: salt it, don't just pepper it. I actually take a pinch of kosher salt and give my salad a decent sprinkle before I toss it. It's amazing how it really brings out the flavors of the dressing and whatever you've got in the salad. Give it a try. I think you'll like it. 

So! Screw bottled salad dressing! Print the recipe below, and the next pizza or lasagna night you have where you find yourself suddenly scrambling for a green salad, chop up some romaine, grate or shave on some Parmesan cheese and throw this dressing together for a last-minute Caesar; I think you will find it's a pleaser!

(Sorry.)

Easy, Fast, Fake-o Caesar Salad Dressing

 Recipe card for Fast, Fake-o Caesar Salad Dressing


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