Caesar salad lovers rejoice!
Has it been way too long since you’ve had a caesar salad? A real caesar salad? Me too. This may not be the real thing but holy YUM is this close. You need this in your life, my friends.
If you think about it, there is really nothing original or unusual about a caesar salad yet it has been a popular starter since the 40’s. Some romaine lettuce leaves, dressing and cubed bread, yet when made with fresh garlic, crisp greens, and the right type of anchovy you have something extraordinary. This was one of my favorite salads way back when gluten and dairy were my so-called friends. And not something that can be made on-the-fly, you know. I tried. The catch: the dressing contains gluten, dairy, and egg. Oh right, that.
Years ago, I tried to recreate the dressing – because we all know this salad is NOTHING without the (heavily-doused parmesan) dressing – but it tasted more like a mustard dressing. Then tried again, and again. Some tasted like anchovy dressing, some with a little too much lemon, too little something … it wasn’t working. I let it go for awhile because sometimes the whole recreating recipes thing gets frustrating.
Dressing flops passed with time until we all had an urge for caesar salad so I went at it again – that time ran out of lemons and only had anchovy paste (always used anchovies in oil in the past since that’s what was in most cookbooks). I went with the flow and to my surprise, it was better than the last dozen attempts without my go-to. By the way, I never attempted this with raw egg, even before discovering my oldest son intolerance to egg.
Anchovy paste made a world of difference because it’s made with water, it lends a more delicate, sort of nutty flavor, without tasting overly fishy. Oil packed anchovy fillets are far stronger, if you like a stronger anchovy flavor then, by all means, use that. I used it for years but found it to always be too strong so I would add more mustard or mayo … running in circles trying to get it right. Also, fresh garlic cloves over my old garlic bulbs (and more of it) was a game changer.
Ever wonder why sometimes garlic cloves are so strong and overpowering while other times it’s mild? I did too and learned it’s due to how fresh the garlic is — the older the garlic the more it can protect you from vampires. So, no cloves from garlic bulbs with sprouting green stems because it will alter the flavor and dominate the dressing flavor as old garlic can do.
So please, do not fear the amount of garlic in here (or the anchovy for that matter, I’m not big on fishy tasting dressing either). If you do happen to have some older garlic sitting in the bottom drawer of the fridge, don’t throw it out, save them for sautéing vegetables where you can get away with it.
I am thrilled to report this DOES have a strong parmesan taste, YASSSS, and super crispy seasoned croutons that are utterly addicting so you may want to make more than needed. Be sure to add the croutons last if you love ’em crispy, the acidity from the vinegar will soften them a bit – even after just 10 minutes (trust me). This is caesar salad as I remember. But I realize, caesar salad lovers have their preferences – whether a lover of a strong garlic caesar, lean towards a stronger anchovy flavor, desire more acidity with a splash more vinegar – adjusting to your liking is easy.
Okay, now that I’ve shared this salad goodness I’m off with the kids to do some school supply shopping … school starts in two days!! Enjoy the day! xx J
- 1 cup mayonnaise (I use ‘just mayo’ brand
- 10 small cloves fresh garlic (about 3 tablespoons full)
- 3 heaping tablespoons anchovy paste
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon GF spicy grain or dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
- Makes about 2 cups (save half for another time)
- 4 slices gluten free dairy free bread*, crusts removed then cut into small cubes, about ½ inch - use crusts to make breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning herb blend
- 2-3 tablespoons avocado oil, or other high-heat oil
- Romaine leaves (I used 6 Little Gem Lettuce variety left whole)
- *Note: I used Canyon Bakehouse White Sandwich bread here. For an egg-free salad, try Little Northern Bakehouse Millet and Chia Loaf bread or your favorite GFDF egg-free bread.
- For the dressing:
- Add all the dressing ingredients into a blender or mini food processor and blend until smooth. Use about half for the salad. Transfer remaining into a jar for another time.
- Place the chopped or whole leaf lettuce leaves in a large enough bowl to easily mix in the dressing.
- Note: Be sure to dry the washed romaine well, the dressing won’t coat the leaves if they are wet. Pour dressing over the leaves, then gently toss and rub dressing into leaves to combine well, preferably by hand.
- Transfer to a serving dish then add croutons. Do not add in advance as they will get soggy.
- Note: you can use any romaine variety, look for firm leaves that are freshest. I find the Little Gem Lettuce variety more tender in flavor that large heads of green romaine, and crunchier than the large bunches. They can be found at most health food stores, if not, romaine hearts are also mild in taste and are a good alternative, can be left whole or chopped to your liking.
- If using the large romaine heads, no need to toss by hand and simply adjust the amount of dressing, if desired.
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