Caesar salad has somehow reached celebrity status. Have you noticed?
That awkward, slightly-lackluster adolescent has suddenly blossomed into a thriving adult. It is a must on most restaurant menus, a dish seen as accessible and reliable as a glass of sweet tea. I’m not sure what Caesar salad did to win such a popularity contest, whether it anonymously mocked the lesser chef’s salad and iceberg wedge on Twitter or got extra gussied up for its high school reunion.
Well, whatever you did, Caesar, honey, it’s working for you! You might even be called the king of salads (or the Caesar?). On your own, you convey an elegance and simplicity, but when topped with tender, red-wine marinated steak and homemade croutons, you become a dinner for the yearbooks.
So, here’s to you, Caesar salad. May your reign be long and luscious!
Caesar Salad with Grilled Steak
a whole-wheat loaf of bread cut into 1-inch cubes to make 2 cups of cubes
a drizzle of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread cubes in olive oil, salt and pepper and bake, until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. I told you it was easy!
(makes about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon mustard
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (found near the canned tuna; get past the idea of this, it won’t taste like Caesar dressing without it!)
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove
Puree all ingredients together using a food processor or blender, until smooth. Adjust lemon juice, Parmesan and pepper to taste. If you find your dressing is too thin, add a bit more mayonnaise; too thin, add an extra spritz of lemon juice.
The Complete Salad
2 small sirloin tip steaks (a delicious and thrifty steak — mine only cost $4)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 large head of romaine lettuce, chopped widthwise into 1-1/2 inch ribbons and then in half to make bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup parmesan cheese shards (use a vegetable peeler to get nice bite-sized ribbons off of a large block)
whole-wheat croutons (don’t even think of using croutons from a box — these are incredibly easy and delicious)
Combine the oil, wine, pepper, salt and grated garlic in a large plastic food storage bag. (In other words, toss ‘em all in and give it a good swish with your hands — after sealing the bag of course.) Add steaks and let marinate in the fridge, turning once, at least 3 hours or overnight. Once steaks are marinated, preheat a grill pan to high, until water dripped on it sputters and evaporates immediately. Grill steaks one minute, turn at a 45-degree angle to get nice grill marks and grill one more minute on that same side. Then, turn to the other side and repeat. The steak will be about medium. (In my picture, I got a little too sidetracked by delightful conversation and ended up grilling them a bit longer than I’d like, but they still tasted wonderful.) Remove steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes so the juices redistribute. Thou shalt not ever cut into a just-off-the-grill steak. Combine the romaine, Parmesan and as much dressing as you like, tossing well. Thinly slice steak perpendicular to the grain of the meat (this is very important for tenderness). At the very last moment, add those delectable homemade croutons to the salad and toss. Top with the sliced steak and serve with more dressing on the side for dipping that delectable steak into.
Share your beloved recipes with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.