Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Caesar reinterpreted

Originally appeared in the November 8, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

I realize there are more than a few conservative, culinary purists who would baulk at the liberal rearrangement of a traditional Caesar salad.  But hey, before you come to bury Caesar, at least give this week’s recipe a chance.  That being said, I am indeed one of the subscribers to this adage:  that the barometer for a chef’s skill should be the professional prowess of how they construct a classic Caesar.

The backbone of all noble Caesars is an emulsion essentially containing anchovies, eggs, oil, and parmesan cheese (and some additional seasonings).  The steak is solely employed to make this salad an entrée, and the additional elements—the egg, the tomato, and the haricot vert—well, they just sounded like they’d get along with the rest of the gastronomic gang.  And what’s that with two types of cheese?  Though I’d never have had the courage to tell one of my estimable chefs this, I have the guts to tell you, don’t sweat it.

And yes, I also realize that we’re ebbing away from salad season; but, like all the classics, we can always conjure an occasion to enjoy them.  And, like all the classics, we can always find an excuse for reinterpretation.

Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Serves 3 – 4

For dressing:

  • 8 – 10 anchovies (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 2 large, cage-free eggs, beaten
  • 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

For salad:

  • 20 ounces strip steak
  • 1 – 2 heads of romaine lettuce, cleaned, chopped into bite-size pieces, rinsed and drained.
  • 3 – 4 hardboiled eggs, chilled, cut into quarters
  • 4 – 6 ounces haricot vert (French green beans), blanched, shocked, chilled
  • As needed, cherry tomatoes, halved
  • As needed, crumbled blue cheese, for garnish

1.  For dressing:  mash anchovies and garlic together to make a paste.  Beat in eggs and lemon juice until smooth.  Beating constantly with a whisk, slowly add in olive oil to form an emulsion.  Add in Parmesan cheese and season to taste.  Place in refrigerator while you prepare remaining components.

2.  In a sanitized kitchen sink fill with potable water, rinse the chopped romaine and drain thoroughly; reserve in refrigerator.  Blanch green beans in boiling water, shocking afterwards in ice water to halt cooking process; drain and reserve in fridge.  Prepare hard-boiled eggs, peel and chill.  Season steak with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, and in a sauté pan over high-heat, sear steaks on both sides.  When desired doneness is reached, place steaks on a plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

3.  In a large bowl, toss romaine with desired amount of dressing.  Plate each serving with a mound of dressed romaine, and arrange haricot vert, eggs, steak, and tomatoes on top.  Garnish each salad with crumbled blue cheese.

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.