The King of Salads: Hail Caesar!

When you’ve dragged yourself from the dredges of winter and you feel the first rays of sunshine warm your cheeks or catch a flutter of a breeze accented with the grass clippings, you know it’s the perfect time to make a big salad for dinner.

A soul-satisfying salad for dinner not only feels healthy, but tastes great too. What makes it taste even better is to dine al fresco with fork in hand and toast to a new season with your favorite wine.

IMG_2583I had a serious craving for a true Caesar salad and not the sad, soggy romaine with packaged croutons and bottled dressing kind of Caesar. I wanted a dressing jazzed with spice and a slight kick from good Dijon mustard, fresh torn romaine including the crisp hearts and homemade croutons that have been tossed in butter and loaded with plenty of garlic and baked until golden, crowning my Caesar with a glorified crunch.

I took the liberty of adding grilled chicken and a few indulgent pieces of crumbled bacon to take this Caesar from salad to dinner status, but you can eat it plain or with your protein of choice: Salmon, shrimp, steak, even tofu.

Hungry yet? Get your fork ready ’cause you’re about to try the King of all Caesars.

IMG_2578Caesar Salad For Two

For the Dressing
2 Medium garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy fillets, minced (use only the best anchovies, packed in olive oil)
1 egg, raw
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
Salt to taste

For the Salad with Grilled Chicken
Yield: 2 Main Servings, 4 Small Servings

2 bunches of fresh Romaine lettuce, torn into 2-inch lengths, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese, to taste
2 slices bacon, fried and crumbled into bits
2 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
For the Croutons
1/2 cup of day old bread, cubed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Grilled Chicken
2 chicken breasts
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Seasoning (I used The Keg steak seasoning) or salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Dressing:
In a small food processor or using a mortar and pestle, puree or mash the chopped garlic, anchovies, and then add egg, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and Tabasco. Blend until smooth and creamy.
Continue to blend while adding oil and lemon juice in a slow, steady stream.
Stir in Parmesan cheese and salt to taste. Set aside.

For the Croutons:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread with melted butter and garlic mixture. Spread on a baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until golden, about 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

For the Chicken:
Combine the olive oil, garlic, and seasoning in shallow dish, add the chicken and turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes. Grill or broil the chicken until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes, then slice crosswise into strips. Set aside.

For the Salad:
Place the romaine in a large bowl and toss with the dressing to taste. Add the croutons and give the salad another toss. Divide among 2 large plates (4 if using as a side dish) and top with freshly ground pepper, bacon and shaved Parmesan. Arrange the grilled chicken over top, add the sliced hard-boiled egg and serve.

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