If you take me to a restaurant that serves hot, fresh bread, I will slather it in melting butter and eat it just like anyone else, but in reality, I am not a bread fancier. I have always been willing to spend the bread’s calories on something more suited to me, like soup or fresh vegetables. When it comes to Caesar salad, though, I have crouton envy. How can it be considered a Caesar salad without crunchy croutons? I had to find a way.
It’s amazing to me that a salad that screams Italian origin was actually invented in or on the border of Mexico. Caesar Cardini ran a restaurant in TJ (Tijuana) to escape prohibition regulations, and his daughter claims to remember that he invented the salad when kitchen supplies were running low on 4th of July, 1924. Reportedly, the original Caesar salad did not contain anchovies. The hint of fishy flavor came from Worcestershire sauce instead.
This salad starts with a bed of sliced romaine, and is then layered with flash sauteed garlic shrimp, grated parmesan cheese and homemade croutons that can be made from gluten-free or sprouted bread. The first time I created them, I used Ezekiel bread (the green label variety with sesame seeds.) My mom tasted them and exclaimed, “I think Ezekiel bread tastes worse than cardboard, but it makes the best croutons!” It’s true. Everything that goes against sprouted and gluten-free breads’ taste when used for other purposes winds up in favor of those breads when you make croutons from them.
For ultimate flavor, I flash saute the shrimp in a bit of melted butter, minced garlic and chile powder. This will work even if you buy the shrimp that’s cooked already in order to save time. Overcooking will toughen the shrimp, so just enough time to coat each one on both sides (a matter of seconds) is all that’s necessary.
I prefer to use a creamy Caesar dressing, and I will provide a link to make a homemade version. If you are buying bottled dressing, please check the label if you are eating with health in mind, as dressings tend to contain a crazy amount of additives, preservatives and flavor enhancers such as MSG. Newman’s Own is a brand that has all natural ingredients and is available in most mainstream grocery stores. Annie’s Naturals is another brand that is making its way into many stores. Cardini’s Original Caesar Dressing is also still available, but the bottled recipe differs from when it was first invented, and it contains that crazy ingredient, “natural flavors.”
Caesar salad is most often tossed with the dressing. I find that using less is optimal, because I don’t like the flavor of a salad weighted down with heavy dressing. Of course, you can always break tradition and serve the dressing on the side.
(Makes 4 large salads or 8 side salads)
1 head romaine lettuce, sliced
1 lb medium shrimp, preferably cooked and peeled
4 slices sprouted or gluten-free bread, cubed
3 tbsp. organic butter (or coconut oil if preferred)
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. capers (optional)
1 tsp. chile powder
fresh squeezed lemon juice (to bring out flavors)
fresh ground pepper to taste
Caesar dressing (to taste)
1. In a non-stick skillet, melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add cubed bread, 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic and 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese. Toss the cubed bread in the pan until all pieces are coated with butter, garlic and cheese. Continue to stir the croutons around until they begin to brown. They will become crispy once cooled. Remove from heat source and drain on a paper towel.
2. In a non-stick skillet, melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add peeled shrimp to the pan. Add 1 tbsp. minced garlic and chile powder, and toss. If shrimp are already cooked, they will only take a minute or two to coat. If shrimp are raw, stir until all shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat source and set aside.
3. Slice washed romaine lettuce and place in a bowl.
4. Add the shrimp and croutons. Toss.
5. Add the remaining grated parmesan cheese. We are talking real Parmesan here, not the stuff in a can, but if you prefer to use the canned stuff, I suppose the world will keep spinning.
6. Add capers. Toss.
7. Toss with desired amount of dressing. If you prefer, serve dressing on the side.
Notes: To celebrate this salad’s Mexican connection, you can replace the Parmesan with cotija cheese and the croutons with tortilla strips.
If you are eating gluten-free and choose a store-bought dressing, please make sure it is gluten-free.
Coddled eggs were used in the original version of the salad. There is such an aparatus as an egg coddler, but it seems just as easy to soft boil an egg if you want to add it to your salad.
You can also add anchovies if you want. Just be prepared that they are extremely salty little fishies, so if you’ve never tried them, I suggest doing a taste test first. A little anchovy goes a long way – my lovely new cliché.
Caesar Dressing from Jamie Oliver via Food and Wine Magazine online can be found by clicking the link. Jamie uses Greek yogurt as the base for his dressing, which I also do when I make dressing from scratch. Kroger sells a part goat’s milk Greek yogurt in their Simple Truth brand which I find to have superior taste to most Greek yogurts on the market. It comes with a mixable add in, so big deal, you throw the sweet part away. The yogurt itself is amazing!
Silver Hills Bakery makes a good gluten-free bread. If you know of another brand, please feel free to leave your favorite’s name in the comments.