Often attributed to chef Caesar Cardini, this salad is said to have originated in Tijuana in the early 1920s, but as with many famous food dishes, speculation as to the true history and the original dressing ingredients are continually debated.
Today we have a pretty standard idea of how to make Caesar salad, but feel free to add your own flair to the ingredients as you see fit.
To use anchovies or not to use anchovies, that is the first question you want to ask yourself when you’re thinking about making this dish. Some say you must use them if you want to make it right, while others will tell you that leaving them out not only won’t hurt anything, but they weren’t even used in the original recipe. If you do use them, take about 12 small fillets and mash them up very well, using a fork. Anchovies are incredibly salty, so you’ll want to taste your dressing before adding more salt.
From here, the standard recipe for Caesar dressing includes lemon juice, minced garlic, white wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh black pepper and a dash of salt. The amounts of each ingredient are completely up to you; but start with 1 cup of olive oil and 1/4-cup of vinegar and go from there.
Mix everything very well. One good way of getting a nice, creamy dressing is to combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil and then, while whisking, slowly pour the oil into the vinegar, garlic and lemon mix. After you’ve got these ingredients blended, add the mashed up anchovies and whisk everything together.
There is one kind of lettuce to use with a Caesar salad and one kind only: Romaine.
Romaine lettuce is available on every produce shelf, so there’s no excuse not to buy it. You want clean, crisp leaves for this salad, so if possible, buy the Romaine the same day you make the salad. Pull the leaves off the head, wash them and pat them dry. Then, by hand, tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and put them in a bowl.
Sure, you can use store-bought croutons, but if you’re going to make the perfect, homemade Caesar, why not go all the way and make your own croutons, too? It’s incredibly easy and way cheaper. Get a baguette and cut 1-inch slices, about 3 cups worth. Cut the bread into cubes and put them in a bowl. Toss in 1 tbsp. of garlic powder and about 3 tbsp. of olive oil. Mix everything up so the bread is well coated and put the bread on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the bread is nice and brown.
Okay, so now you have all of your ingredients ready. It’s really important not to dress the salad until it’s time to serve. If you dress the salad too early, the lettuce will become soggy and your beautiful salad will be ruined.
So, put the lettuce in a bowl, add the croutons and then slowly add about 1/2-cup of dressing to the salad. You only want to give the lettuce a light coat of dressing — remember that you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Once it’s dressed to your liking, top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you’ve just created the perfect Caesar salad.
You can also add chicken breast or grilled shrimp and pasta if this salad is designed as more of a main course.