Don’t you want to pull out the mulled wine recipes, compare pumpkin bread recipes and start drawing up the beef stew shopping list? I am looking at the thermostat glumly and blasting the air conditioning again. I am going to make yet another salad for supper, because it is too hot to use the oven.
I know I should be relishing the warm weather, and making some more hay while the sun shines, but I would rather be wearing a sweater and raking some leaves. I am looking for something light and summery, again, and something different because if I make Insalata Caprese again, I will be very disappointed in my limited imagination and culinary skills. Haven’t you started to have stray thoughts about cooking for Thanksgiving? Did you see those roasted chickens on the Bon Appétite cover? I want to breathe in all the heady holiday aromas of a warm kitchen on a cold day.
So back to the Salad Research Center I go. Again. Very often I find great guidance (and inspiration) from Food52.
Back in the dark ages, when Caesar salad was something special a waiter would whip up at your table in a nice restaurant, juggling eggs with abandon and whisking them to perfection as you sat sipping your Dubonnet. We never had Caesar salad at home. Home meant homemade salad dressing (Mazola Corn Oil, a couple of well-pressed heads of garlic, salt and pepper, thank you very much) over a bed of iceberg lettuce. (Cole slaw was a little more exotic: shredded cabbage, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Heinz 57 Cider Vinegar and a generous tablespoon of celery seed. The New England Puritans were a tough crowd to finesse.) We never had Romaine lettuce back then. And throughout the winter months we ate frozen vegetables!
College introduced me to prepared dressings: Italian dressing, Russian dressing (on roast beef sandwiches that I could eat while drinking a beer!) and Ranch Dressing. Then along came French Vinaigrette. We tried many formulae in attempts to strike the perfect taste bud balance: the 3:1 proportions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, imported mustards, vinegar or wine or lemon juice? Years were spent in the Salad Dressing Lab. We even had a recipe clipped from a 1980’s Esquire magazine which promised us the historically correct recipe for Caesar Salad. Originally, back when Caesar Cardini invented the stuff, a small amount of Worcestershire sauce was added to the suspension of eggs and olive oil and garlic – no anchovies at all! I cannot tell you how many times I have been disappointed by a Caesar salad I have ordered in a restaurant and had it dripping with anchovies. Heresy!
And now we have found another recipe for Caesar Dressing, which I completely ignored for our supper. Instead I focused on the salad itself. I took a bottle of Ken’s Caesar Dressing out of the fridge, and without juggling a single egg, I added a few drops to both plates of salad just before we fell on them like hungry, ill-mannered wolves. This is a recipe I purloined from the fine folks at Food52. Except that I amended it accordingly, to suit my fridge and our persnickety tastes.
I roasted the tomatoes accordingly, which were just incredible. I also made the Parmesan rounds, which are always so wonderful and crunchy. I did not shave the garlic, but instead used the garlic press. I have to say that the goat cheese, when mixed with the garlic, half and half (no heavy cream in our fridge, unfortunately) and some oregano, was too wonderful for words. This was a meal that was relatively quick to prepare, was very tasty and the goat cheese infused the salad with a rich, silky schmear of satisfaction and satiation.
• 1/3 cup buttermilk
• 2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
• 1 garlic clove, grated
• 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 3/4 cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
• 10 cherry tomatoes (I used 8 slightly larger tomatoes, which I halved before roasting)
• 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
• 2 heads of romaine lettuce
• 4 ounces good goat cheese (I used 2 ounces for 2 of us.)
• 1 garlic clove, grated
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1. Mix all of dressing ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Take goat cheese out of refrigerator to soften. Grate garlic and mix with oregano and cream. Mix softened goat cheese with herb cream mixture and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 375° F. Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes or until tomatoes burst and brown in a few spots. Take out of oven and set aside.
4. Raise oven temperature to 400° F.
5. Pour a heaping tablespoon of Parmesan on a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese spacing cheese at least 1/2 inch apart. Reserve 1/4 cup Parmesan for serving. Bake for about 5 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Cool.
6. Clean romaine lettuce and trim. Place between damp paper towels and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
7. Pipe a portion of goat cheese mousse on bottom of one salad plate (depending on how much goat cheese you like). I use a ziploc bag with the corner cut off to make a pretty design or you can always spoon on the bottom. Repeat with remaining salad plates. (I schmeared it on the plate, for heaven’s sake!)
8. Toss romaine very lightly with dressing (be very sparse as I always put a little dressing on top of finished salad). Divide lettuce between salad plates.
9. Divide roasted tomatoes on top of salad. Drizzle about a tablespoon of dressing on lettuce and sprinkle with Parmesan. Add Parmesan crisp and serve.
“Even today, well-brought-up English girls are taught by their mothers to boil all veggies for at least a month and a half, just in case one of the dinner guests turns up without his teeth. “
– Calvin Trillin