A Caesar salad is often a crowd pleaser, offering a mix of tantalising flavours with crisp, fresh greens. It is also highly versatile, working as an appetiser, a side, or even a full meal depending on how it is constructed. While there are many variations of the salad, certain ingredients are necessities. So, if you are looking to experience a classic Caesar salad on its own, or are interested in using the foundation for a salad that can stand as an entrée, here are seven things you need to get started.
At the heart of any Caesar salad is romaine lettuce. The leaves are quite sturdy and crisp, allowing it to carry the weight of the dressing and other ingredients more effectively that some other greens a person may use.
Croutons are another quintessential part of a Caesar salad. Not only do they add a bit of flavour and crunch, but they also absorb some of the dressing for a more flavourful bite. In most cases, plain toasted croutons are ideal, though some versions flavoured with garlic can also work quite well. You can choose to either purchase croutons from the store or make them yourself using a white bread. Just make sure they are well toasted and crisp if you chose to make your own or else they may get soggy too quickly.
When it comes to a Caesar salad, parmesan is the only cheese you should consider. It has a distinct flavour and a hint of saltiness, serving as a great compliment to the dressing and croutons. You want to make sure it is a high-quality cheese, and not the kind you find in a shaker at retail grocery stores typically used to sprinkle over pasta dishes. Instead, look for either a fresh, shredded option or buy a block and use shavings.
Caesar salad dressing features a notable amount of garlic which is often why it is the salad of choice to go with other Italian dishes featuring the same. It has a very strong flavour and is a key to creating the overall Caesar salad experience.
While some Caesar salad dressings use an alternative oil, olive oil will infuse the salad with the classic flavour most people expect. Choose a high-quality extra virgin olive oil as the flavour tends to be more delicate and won’t overwhelm the other ingredients used to make the dressing. It is also a healthier choice when it comes to oils as it is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
One of the most distinguishing ingredients in Caesar salad dressing is anchovies. These small fish add a salty flavour to the dressing and actually limit the amount of extra salt that must be added. To help make sure the flavour is well combined with the rest of the dressing, the fish need to be finely chopped. This also ensures that those enjoying the dish won’t be overwhelmed by a particularly strong flavour as could occur if larger pieces are added by mistake.
In most cases, canned anchovies are perfectly appropriate, since they will be finely chopped before being added to the dressing. However, you can choose to use fresh anchovies if you prefer and if they are readily available where you normally shop.
When people think of the flavour of a Caesar salad, black pepper is a highly noticeable element. However, traditional ground pepper can be underwhelming, especially when you are looking to match some of the strong tastes listed above. Freshly ground pepper has a strong flavour and aroma, helping to stand up against the saltiness of the anchovies and bring balance to the garlic.
In most cases, you will need whole peppercorns and a grinder to get the full effect of fresh ground pepper. Often you can find grinders at your local grocery store. Some less expensive versions are manual, allowing you to have a high amount of control over the amount of pepper added. However, electric versions are also a great choice.
The dressing on a Caesar salad isn’t simply poured over the top before serving; it is thoroughly mixed in with the other ingredients to completely coat all available surfaces. Since this requires everything to be combined manually, a large mixing bowl is an essential item to the process. Make sure the bowl offers plenty of room to toss and stir the salad easily, as you need to be able to complete the task without risking damaging any of the ingredients.
There are other ingredients used to create a Caesar, including egg, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce that are commonly used to finish making the dressing. However, it is the flavour of the ingredients above, and the fact that the dressing is thoroughly combined with the romaine lettuce, croutons, and parmesan, that truly make a great Caesar salad.
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