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How to Make a Caesar Salad

A freshly-made plate of Caesar salad.

Being one of the most common salads that people order when dining out in a restaurant, the Caesar Salad has probably become ubiquitous with the American served meal as the forerunner of the main plate.

Interestingly, it is one of the easiest salads to prepare and its origin might deceivingly seem the Mediterranean, but it is in fact a truly American creation, historically. The salad was actually invented in 1924 in San Diego by a restaurant owner running operations in both the U.S. and Mexico in the same region.

How Long to Make: 15 Minutes at Most

Consisting of chopped or torn Romaine leaves, croutons, parmesan, and dressing, the Caesar Salad in terms of ingredients should probably be taught as the first lesson in salad-making 101 classes. It’s a popular dish because of the mix of dressings that can be included but the simplicity in which it can be made very quickly but for anyone, including small kids.

Further, the salad is a great way of amping up the vegetable side of a meal without the usual faces being made eating anything green and leafy. Much of the appeal has to do with the dressing, which frequently incorporates garlic, pepper, cream, vinegar, oil, salt, and even anchovies in some variations.

And for the preparers, the process is about as basic as it gets. Throwing everything in a bowl, mix it all up, scoop and serve. It only gets a bit more complicated if one makes the dressing homemade.

Variations of the Caesar Salad exist as well. One common version included grilled chicken slices or grilled steak slices thrown on top to appeal to the carnivore eater. Still, others like the flavor of bacon mixed up in the dish as well. Multiple variations involve using different types of cheeses from standard Parmesan to grated rare cheeses that are drier and older.

The one key thing to remember is that Caesar Salad is best served immediately. A mix that has been sitting for a while or gets stored in the refrigerator is not going to be quite as appealing as the original. This is because the dressing mixture is quite heavy and saturating, which causes the romaine leaf parts to being to go limp and flat.

Try to store the salad for the day and serve 24 hours later and what you will get is a salad slop with drooping romaine and a highly concentrated dressing mixture that might shock your tongue (refrigeration draws moisture out which creates more zing of the remaining ingredients).

Some purists will argue everything should be bought in raw form for Caesar salad and made from scratch, but this is mainly for personal accomplishment. Store-bought half-prepared ingredients are fine, and most restaurants use them religiously because they don’t have time to hand-make every Caesar Salad from scratch. Croutons, dressing, pre-cooked meats, and grated cheeses can all be bought ahead of time to just throw in and mix.

Believe it or not, the very early form of the Caesar Salad dressing was mixed with raw eggs. In the 1920s nobody was worried about how long food stayed out during the day in terms of going bad and causing food poisoning. That didn’t become a culinary science until much later. People just put up with discomfort and got used to eating food that was contaminated.

They also didn’t live as long as today either. Today, raw eggs are off the list for a Caesar Salad, with mayonnaise replacing the dairy item instead of a homemade dressing ingredient. That said, people can still try to use raw eggs but the final mix needs to be eaten right away after preparation and not left to sit at room temperature.

As for the anchovies, they are an optional ingredient, and many folks who like the fish ingredient use anchovy paste versus bits of the actual fish chopped up. Many Caesar Salad pre-mixed dressings also have the ingredient pulverized into the dressing so it can’t even be identified except by taste. While it was not part of the original historical recipe, the majority of restaurant chefs expect the ingredient as a basic part of the salad’s unique taste.

A bowl of freshly-made Caesar salad with croutons.

Caesar Salad

Prep Time 15 mins

Ingredients
  

  • One teaspoon of chopped up garlic
  • One-half teaspoon of salt
  • Two tablespoons of lemon juice
  • One tablespoon of mayonnaise - here’s where you can swap out for a raw egg instead
  • One and a half teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • Optional: Two teaspoons of anchovy paste
  • One-half cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Two heads of romaine
  • Bread croutons of any type
  • One-quarter cup of Parmesan cheese

Instructions
 

  • With the entire ingredient mixed detailed above ready to go, get a big bowl to pour all the items into except for the romaine, Parmesan cheese, and croutons. The IKEA stainless steel kitchen mixing bowls are some of the easiest and best to work with, but any large bowl will do.
  • The key factor is that you can easily lift it later on, even with the ingredients all put inside. With the dressing ingredients added, use a hand whisk to blend and mix them evenly into a nice consistency.
  • Many think the lettuce should be thrown in the bowl as well. This is a mistake as it increases the time the lettuce parts soak in the dressing. Instead, the romaine pieces should be placed on a salad serving plate bare. The dressing then gets poured onto the lettuce for the presentation effect.
  • The croutons are then added last to stay as dry as possible until eaten.

Preparation Instructions with Photos

Ingredients to Mix In

The complete set of ingredients for the recipe.

  • One teaspoon of chopped up garlic
  • One-half teaspoon of salt
  • Two tablespoons of lemon juice
  • One tablespoon of mayonnaise (here’s where you can swap out for a raw egg instead)
  • One and a half teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce (seriously!)
  • Two teaspoons of anchovy paste (your choice to include)
  • One-half cup of extra virgin olive oil (do not use regular vegetable oil)
  • Two heads of romaine (tear them up into one-inch size parts)
  • Bread croutons of any type
  • One-quarter cup of Parmesan cheese

Step One: The Dressing Mix

The dressing ingredients are combined in one jar with cover.

The jar is then shaken vigorously to thoroughly mix the dressing.

With the entire ingredient mixed detailed above ready to go, get a big bowl to pour all the items into except for the romaine, Parmesan cheese, and croutons. The IKEA stainless steel kitchen mixing bowls are some of the easiest and best to work with, but any large bowl will do.

The key factor is that you can easily lift it later on, even with the ingredients all put inside. With the dressing ingredients added, use a hand whisk to blend and mix them evenly into a nice consistency.

Step Two: Application

A bowl of freshly-made Caesar salad with croutons.

Many think the lettuce should be thrown in the bowl as well. This is a mistake as it increases the time the lettuce parts soak in the dressing. Instead, the romaine pieces should be placed on a salad serving plate bare. The dressing then gets poured onto the lettuce for the presentation effect.

The croutons are then added last to stay as dry as possible until eaten. Again, do not let the salad sit for a long time or store in the fridge. Serve immediately and enjoy the flavors as they zing on your tongue while eating!

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