Homegrown and Homemade

Apparently, the lettuce likes 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 we are having. With so many varieties doing well 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. Anything more than a squeeze of fresh lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper overpowers them rather than complements them. When I match them 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- which is why it’s the preferred lettuce choice for a classic, tangy caesar dressing.

So, with the abundance of romaine, I decided it was time that our homegrown romaine got served up with some homemade caesar dressing.

I think 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 not great. Some places serve it up as a vinaigrette while others are garlicy 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. So I got to work.

I made three versions, one which had no egg, and I was hoping I was going to like it. Unfortunately, it came in last in the taste test. Bottom line- you need the egg. But I am glad I tried it so that I know. The winning recipe was based on Michael Chirarello’s, but I did have modifications so my recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

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.

Serve it up with some homemade croutons and you are in business!