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What Is Caesar Salad?
A salad of romaine lettuce, croutons, and parmesan cheese, what truly makes a Caesar a Caesar is the dressing. Though the ingredients can vary, in general, Caesar salad dressing is made from egg yolk, anchovy paste, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. The combination of refreshing, crisp lettuce and creamy, umami-rich dressing has made Caesar salad a tangy comfort-food staple.
Where Did the Caesar Salad Originate?
The Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana during Prohibition, during which time southern Californians would cross the border to Mexico to have a drink. Italian-born restaurateur Caesar Cardini immigrated to the U.S. and then decamped to Tijuana due to the aforementioned alcohol ban, where he opened Hotel Caesar’s, a stone’s throw from the border.
He claimed to have tossed the first Caesar salad tableside, in a large wooden bowl, on July 4, 1924, and in 1948 patented his recipe and began to sell the dressing, bottled, to grocery stores. Cardini’s original Caesar dressing recipe famously does not include anchovies, since Worcestershire sauce already contains the fermented fish. It’s also made with a raw egg yolk and olive oil, though many versions use mayonnaise instead.
The salad is still made tableside at Hotel Caesar’s, with a dressing of minced garlic, dijon mustard, anchovy filets, Worcestershire sauce, egg yolk, lime juice, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. To the bowl waiters add whole romaine hearts and black pepper. The salad is topped with one crostini, and parmesan cheese. Although the Caesar salad wasn’t named after Julius Caesar, ancient Romans did dress raw greens with garum, a fermented fish sauce that’s kind of like Worcestershire sauce’s great-great-grandmother.
4 Ways to Serve Caesar Salad
Once you’ve mastered homemade caesar salad dressing, don’t just use it on romaine—try swapping the usual lettuce with raw kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, or chicories.
- Add halved cherry tomatoes, sliced grilled chicken breasts, a soft-boiled egg, avocado, or crumbled bacon. Try garnishing with shaved parmesan rather than grated, or replace the crouton with a parmesan crisp.
- For a more dramatic presentation that’s closer to the Cardini original, keep the romaine leaves whole, simply slicing hearts in half lengthwise.
- If you’re barbecuing, try grilling halved romaine hearts, cut-side down and lightly brushed with oil, just until grill marks appear. Then drizzle lettuce with dressing and top with homemade croutons—which you can also toast on the grill!
- Caesar salad goes well with Italian-American classics like pasta with Pomodoro sauce, pizza, chicken piccata, and eggplant parmesan.
Classic Caesar Salad Recipe With Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
Prep Time5 min
Total Time15 min
- 2 cups torn 1-inch pieces of torn stale bread (baguette or country loaf is preferred)
- 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
- 1 garlic clove
- Kosher salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 romaine hearts, cut into 2-inch pieces (or 6 heads baby romaine, leaves picked)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bread onto a baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake until golden, 10-12 minutes.
- Using a chef’s knife, chop together the anchovy and garlic, with a pinch of salt. Continue chopping until fine, then use the side of the blade to mash into a paste. Add to a large bowl.
- Whisk in the egg yolks, lemon juice, and mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and vegetable oil until emulsified. Whisk in Parmesan, season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Gently toss the lettuce, croutons, and dressing. Finish romaine salad with more Parmesan cheese.
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