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Caesar Salad
The Caesar salad enjoyed a major resurgence in popularity in the late 1980s, and the trend has continued to this day, with many restaurants offering one on their menus. This modern version addresses the health concerns a lot of people have about the traditional method of enriching the dressing with a coddled egg.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small heads romaine lettuce, preferably with small leaves
  • 3 or 4 slices French or Italian bread, each 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 Tbs. plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt, to taste
  • 6 to 8 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Discard any tough or discolored outer leaves from the lettuce heads. Separate the leaves and reserve the large ones for another use. Rinse the smaller inner leaves and dry thoroughly. Break the leaves into halves or thirds. Place in a salad bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes to crisp.

Remove the crusts from the bread slices and discard. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. You should have about 2 cups.

In a large fry pan over low heat, warm the 3 Tbs. olive oil. Meanwhile, using the flat side of a chopping knife, smash 1 of the garlic cloves. When the oil is hot, add the garlic to the pan and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bread cubes and fry, stirring and tossing, until crisp and golden on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Discard the garlic. Sprinkle the bread cubes with a little salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Set the croutons aside to cool.

Chop the remaining garlic clove and combine with the 1/2 cup olive oil in a blender. Puree until smooth. In a small bowl, using a fork, mash the anchovies until they form a paste. Add to the oil and garlic in the blender along with the mustard, lemon juice and yogurt. Blend at high speed until a smooth emulsion forms. Add 2 Tbs. of the Parmesan cheese and blend again. Season with a little salt, remembering that anchovies are salty, and a little pepper.

Add three-fourths of the dressing to the lettuce and toss to coat well. Add about half of the remaining cheese and toss again. Add more dressing or more seasonings to taste. Sprinkle with the croutons and the remaining cheese. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Celebrating the Pleasures of Cooking, by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1997).