Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

RECIPE: Back to Basics--Caesar Salad


Things these days--material possessions, meals, clothing, everything--are so easy to obtain pre-packaged, pre-made and everything done for you, that it no longer seems necessary to ever do anything for yourself. People don't make things anymore.

I can never learn too much history, because when I read history books, my mind gets blown and I get hung up on the little things: the fact that owning one book would make you rich once upon a time; the fact that once, almost everyone had to make their own clothes and only had a few things to wear and those things had to be washed by hand every time; the fact that some women once had to spend the entire day in viewing range of the fire to make sure it never went out, because it was the source of drinking water and cooking water. And. The fact that once, most people made every single meal they ate themselves, from scratch.

Now, even for cooking we have box mixes, "kits," everything's done for us. I will admit that I never buy whole garlic cloves. I just buy a jar of garlic paste and a jar of minced garlic , which each tell me how much a clove is and then I never have to go around trying to smash garlic. (Like it's so hard). And most of the time, you don't even HAVE to cook if you don't want to. You could get every meal already made for you and if you are clever, it won't even cost a lot more than making it yourself. I love to cook, and there are still a lot of things that I am so used to having made for me, that I never would even think to make them myself.

So, I decided to take something so ubiquitous, something that you can get everywhere, already made and ready to go, and make it myself. From scratch. A caesar salad. Caesar salads are now on every menu, and every store has a pre-made Caesar in a plastic container, just waiting to be your lunch. But do I remember anymore, or did I even ever know, what a caesar salad with fresh chicken straight off the grill, and home-torn romaine, with homemade dressing tasted like?
I got about 1 1/2 pounds of chicken tenders and threw them on the grill pan until they were nice and cooked through and had some good grill stripes. Then I cut them up into little strips. Then, I made the dressing:

Caesar Dressing:

In a blender, blend 2 garlic cloves, smashed; 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. anchovy paste, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a blender until combined. With motor running (watch out, mine was really splashy), add 7 tbsp. olive oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified.

Then I put about 1/4 of the chicken (I made enough for four servings of salad--lunches for a couple days!) in a salad bowl with one heart of romaine, torn into small pieces; 1/2 cup parmesan, dressing to taste (I like only a little, enough to coat the lettuce but not puddle at the bottom) and croutons (okay, I admit I did not make these from scratch because we don't have bread--next time) and toss the lot.

I made dinner late, and was so hungry at that point that I forgot to take a picture.


Sounds lovely. Nothing's as good as a good caesar. Actually, I'm quite fond of the wedge salad as well.

I hate fake (no anchovie) caesar though. The fishy stuff is a must.

How's it turn out?

said by Jeremy at 2:57 PM Delete

Ha! J. LOVES the wedge. I am opposed to getting it in a restaurant though, because really, you want me to pay for something like that?!

The salad turned out well, I guess I forgot to talk about that part. The main thing was the fresh lettuce and chicken, which made all the difference. I am so used to eating packaged Whole Foods/TJs salads. It was nice to eat something that actually started at room temperature!

The dressing was good too ... I was amazed at how much something I made tasted like a restaurant caesar dressing. I like anchovies in the dressing, but not on the salad itself. I have had that before and it totally overwhelmed the salad part. And the texture ... you know. Slimy. Anchovy paste, though, I can totally get down with.

Have you ever seen them, live? Those are some cool, crazy fish.

said by KT at 3:03 PM Delete

Never seen 'em live, but I do appreciate them on the salad itself as a garnish, not just in the dressing. Harris' makes a nice one.

In fact, sometimes I dream of the lovely meals I've had at Harris'. They all go something like this:

-- Martini (gin, up, olives, naturally)
-- Caesar -- the real deal, complete with 2-3 oily anchovies.
-- A few rolls
-- Med. rare porterhouse
-- Food coma.

MmmMmMmmm. Classic.

said by Jeremy at 3:08 PM Delete

Harris Ranch always makes me think of that sea of cows they have, i.e., the pit of stink. Makes it hard to eat there, because then I actually know where my beef came from and it's not pretty.

We have a great steak house in Koreatown called Taylor's that is totally your grandpa's steakhouse. Have I posted about it before? The waiter will tell you everything about your piece of meat too, and gave us extra leftovers for the dog. They have the wedge salad and all the martinis and manhattans you can suck down.

said by KT at 3:20 PM Delete

Harris' on Van Ness? I think we might be talking about different places . . . the one I'm talking about is kinda high end. And not a ranch.

Or do you know something I don't?

said by Jeremy at 8:48 PM Delete

Oh, I always thought that Harris' was the same as the Harris from Harris Ranch, but I looked it up and I guess it's not.

All the same, it REMINDS me of Harris Ranch, which is the cow ranch on the 5 (which does have a steak house) and you basically drive through this monstrous sea of cows, basically squeezed into this massive space all crowded together and it smells SO BAD and you look at the cows and it looks so awful, and you never want to have a steak again, and then they have this RESTAURANT, like you're supposed to eat there after driving through this massive cloud of cow shit, and people DO.

Anyway, Harris' in S.F. always makes me think of that, so even if they're not related, which I think people have had to explain to me several times, I still just ... the power of association. I cannot do it. I'm sure it's faboo though.

said by KT at 9:11 PM Delete

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