Caesar salad with young romaine and chili-spiced croutons

April 23, 2009

Who doesn’t love Caesar salad? I haven’t met anyone yet… And it’s been a favorite of mine ever since my college days in California. Back then (do I dare mention it was in the early eighties!) any trendy restaurant would assemble it right at your table. The waiter would arrive with his arsenal and furiously whip an egg to make the dressing. Going out for dinner and not ordering one was inconceivable!

For me, this favorite recipe has evolved though. First, I find the egg-based dressing a bit rich so I’ve come up with one that’s just as creamy and flavorful but sits better in my stomach.

Then, I like to use young romaine lettuces that I serve whole. It makes a gorgeous presentation and looks less predictable than the torn-up pieces of mature, thick romaine leaves.

The real bonus of course is that these young romaines are utterly succulent! You won’t find them in your grocery store though, so head out to your local Farmer’s Market to pick a bunch (the season starts in early spring and ends in late fall). And I dare say you haven’t tasted a romaine until you taste these young lettuces!

Lastly, I like to make my own croutons. I’ll admit it’s a fetish of mine, but I just don’t enjoy the boxed, super dehydrated ones. I always have the heel of a crusty loaf of bread saved up in the freezer and it makes fabulous croutons. Spiked with a little chili powder, they are good enough that my husband Marc always tries to steal a few before I’m ready to serve.

A few tweaks on this classic recipe make a modern and light Caesar salad that’s also bursting with flavor… In fact, I always eat twice my share!

Caesar Salad with Young Romaine and Chili-Spiced Croutons

serves 4
active time: 20 min

For the dressing

  1. 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
  2. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  3. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  4. 1 small garlic clove – skinned and crushed (use a microplane grater)
  5. 1 tablespoon capers – drained and finely chopped
  6. 1/4 cup freshly grated Reggiano or Grana Padano Parmesan
  7. 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  8. 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  9. freshly ground pepper to taste

For the croutons

  1. 2 large slices sourdough country bread – cut in 1/2” cubes
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  4. freshly ground pepper to taste
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

For the salad

  1. 6 young Romaine lettuces – rinsed, spun dry and cut in half lengthwise right through the center so the leaves stay attached together
  2. Reggiano or Grana Padano Parmesan shavings as garnish (use a vegetable hand-peeler)
  3. freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Step 1: To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.
  2. Step 2: To make the croutons, heat a medium heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and bread cubes and toss well. Sauté undisturbed until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Toss and continue to sauté until golden on all sides, about 2 more minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper and chili powder, toss well and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Step 3: Place 3 romaine halves in the center of each plate. Drizzle with the dressing. Top with the croutons. Garnish with Parmesan shavings and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

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Beet and goat cheese is another classic pairing. Here’s my version with golden beets and watercress: Roasted golden beet salad with baby watercress, endives, goat cheese and walnuts.

salads, caesar, romaine
© 2011 Viviane Bauquet Farre Food & Style NY LLC

Caesar salad

Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna Ford June 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Yummy! My mom is on a low fat diet so I’ll print this recipe for her. Looks delicious. Thanks Viviane!

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Pamela Archambault March 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Hi Viviane! So happy to have found you through Randall Grahm. Have made this several times now and it is really wonderful and has great flavor. Also have made your Watercress Salad with Persimmons. Fabulous. Am going to try the Mac and Cheese with Leeks next.

ps. Enjoy hearing you say “oleeve oil” :))

Thank You.

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Viviane March 23, 2012 at 9:49 am

Pamela! How lovely to hear from you. I’m most grateful to Randall for introducing you to my site… I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the recipes! Your PS of course made me laugh… You can always count of me for saying thing “funny”. Let me know how the Mac & Cheese with leeks turns out and thank you for writing me a note. Happy cooking, happy eating and happy sipping (If you’re a friend of Randall’s it means you love wine)!

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