Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Caesar Salad with Prawns and Grilled Aparagus

The year is 1924. In Tijuana, México, Caesar Cardini is on the line in his restaurant. It is July 4th and the place is packed, so much so that they are running out of food! Caesar has to think quickly. Using the plentiful ingredients he does have on hand, he invents a new salad on the spot. He decides that he will even toss and serve it table-side to add some flare.

At the table, he tosses his croutons in garlic oil. In a large mixing bowl, he tosses leaves of romaine lettuce with olive oil, then sprinkles salt, 8 grinds of pepper, lemon juice and 6 drops of Worcestershire sauce. He then breaks in 2 coddled eggs, tosses again and adds parmesan cheese. A final toss and he then tops his new creation with the croutons. The whimsical chef-d'oeuvre would eventually be known world-wide as the Caesar Salad.

There are others who claim to have invented the salad, including Caesar's brother Alessandro, but most agree that the above story is the most authentic. Here is a link to the original recipe according to the encyclopedia of food history (notice that the original recipe does NOT contain anchovies). Well, by now we all know and love the Caesar Salad, whoever brought it into existence. I have a particular fondness for the salads as they were a beloved specialty of my late grandfather Russell Jensen (love you gramps). He was a perfectionist when it came to the Caesar, and in all of his years making it I can remember only a handful of times hearing him say, "I got it just right this time."

I am less of a stickler. I have never even measured out the ingredients when I made a Caesar dressing. Needless to say, I love eating a Caesar Salad, and I love making one. This night, we decided to grill some prawns to top it. I know, I know, the cheese overpowers the delicate flavor of the shrimp...but you know what? Sometimes you just gotta do whatchu feel. Do a cartwheel in a crowded mall! Drink a cabernet sauvingnon with Sole Meunier! ...Make a Caesar Salad with Prawns!! So I did, and it was great.

Often when I make Caesars, I omit the egg and simply make an emulsified vinaigrette, which is what I did here. My basic recipe is something along the lines of:

3 anchovy filets minced

1 garlic clove minced
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sherry (or red wine) vinegar
coarsely ground pepper, to taste (I use plenty)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano (although this time I happened to have pecorino romano in the fridge, so I used that)
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a salad bowl, then slowly pour in the oil as you whisk vigorously.

For the shrimp, I tossed them in some olive oil, salt, black pepper, and chili flakes, and then grilled them on my cast-iron grill pan. Just a minute or so on each side is all they need, otherwise they become tough.

I also grilled up some beautiful asparagus that we got from our CSA. Finally, to make things purdy, I took a minute to make some veggie garnishes, carrot and radish flowers. Awww...


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