Spinach Caesar salad with yellowfin tuna

A more redeeming Caesar

Originally appeared in the April 26, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

There are a few culinary tricks that can transform a familiarly fattening salad dressing into a lowfat imposter.  The back of the classic Caesar dressing is anchovy, parmesan, and mayonnaise; but basic mayo (or aioli) is simply an emulsification of oil and egg yolks.  Ay, there’s the rub, because there’s the fat, and fat has texture and flavor and all the things we love in a rich, creamy dip or dressing.  So what good is creating a lookalike if it doesn’t taste alike?

Well, for one thing, there’s not a whole lot of sacrificing happening here.  Because of the anchovies and parmesan, Caesar has such a distinct flavor that your palate will be inclined to suspend our disbelief.

Another classic component in a Caesar is Romaine.  Yet lettuce, no matter how green it is, carries virtually zero punch when it comes to contributing any vitamins and minerals.  Spinach, on the other hand, contains a fistful of nutrients.

I like to pan-sear my tuna steaks, allow them to cook through, cool, and them crumble them on top of the bed of baby spinach.  Let me know how it goes.  With a few healthful altercations, I’m certain you’ll find this to be a more redeeming Caesar.

Spinach Caesar salad with yellowfin tuna

Serves 2

  • 2, 4-ounce yellowfin tuna steaks
  • ½ cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 4 brined anchovy fillets, minced and smashed to nearly a paste
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon shredded parmesan (plus more for garnish)
  • 2 – 3 generous dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 4 heaping handfuls of fresh baby spinach
  • Optional:  ciabatta croutons for garnish

1.  Season both sides of tuna steak with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  In a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a small amount of olive oil, allow to heat, and sear one side of each tuna steak.  When color is golden, repeat the process on opposite sides.  After a second sear is complete, place entire sauté pan in a 375 degree oven and allow tuna to cook until desired doneness (if you like it rare, skip the oven and evaluate doneness from the way the color creeps up sides of the tuna steak).  After tuna is cooked to desired doneness, set aside and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, anchovy, paprika, parmesan, and Worcestershire; whisk together and adjust seasoning with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

3.  Place two handfuls of fresh spinach in two serving bowls, and drizzle greens with dressing.  Place tuna on each salad, and garnish with extra parmesan and (optional) ciabatta croutons.


Linguine puttanesca

Pasta patois

Originally appeared in the November 3, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

There’s something to be said for using your intuition in the kitchen.  But, more to the point, while there’s a need for precision in many culinary cases, what most cooks rely on when actually preparing food is eyeball accuracy—you have to cook with all your senses, and it’s perfectly fine to tinker as you go.  Read more after the jump: (more…)