Grilled Caesar Salad

Though a unanimous favorite, our family reserved the Caesar salad experience for dining out. Somewhere in the long ago, I had heard that Caesar salad required a raw egg in the dressing.  The thought of eating raw eggs gives me a food-safety anxiety attack and home-pasteurizing eggs seems like too much effort for too little reward.  So I had lumped Caesar salad into the category of hullabaloo-cooking and never even thought about making it at home.

But recently I have revised my opinion. I owe this change of heart to my salad-loving, lunch-time bistro companion and best friend, Marcia, who ordered a grilled Caesar salad on one of our lunch-time excursions. One taste and we both agreed that the flavor of the charred leaves added an exciting new element to this already tasty classic.
She liked the grilled Caesar so much that she began making it at home…a lot.

Grilled Caesar

After a brief tutorial and poo-pooing my reservations, she convinced me to give it try.  The smoky charred flavor juxtaposed to the tart lemony dressing and sour salty capers; the elegant  presentation with a deceptively simple preparation; the ability to eat the salad with your hands like a slice of pizza (a winner with the kids), and the complete removal of eggs from the recipe—all of these reasons have me making this salad at home now too…a lot.Grilled Caesar--Ingredients

Grilled Caesar Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salads & Dressings
Cuisine: America
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 servings
 
The dressing stores well in the fridge for a few months. If you make it in the quantity listed below, you'll have plenty leftover, making Grilled Cesar Salad a possibility even on busy week nights.
Ingredients
  • HOMEMADE CAESAR DRESSING
  • the juice of 2 lemons (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 t anchovies in oil
  • ½ t sugar
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t mayonnaise
  • ½ salt
  • ¾ cup good rapeseed or olive oil
  • ½ t powdered garlic or one whole garlic clove, crushed
  • SALAD
  • 2 hearts of Romaine
  • oil
  • OPTIONAL ADDITIONS
  • 1 T capers
  • 1 cup croutons
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper
Instructions
  1. TO MAKE THE DRESSING
  2. Combine the juice, anchovies, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mayo, salt, and powdered garlic (if using), and with an upright or immersion blender on high speed. Slowly drizzle in the oil while continuing to blend on high until the dressing looks creamy and completely emulsified.
  3. If you are using fresh garlic, add the crushed clove after emulsifying and allow it to infuse its flavor in the oil for 6 - 24 hours before fishing out and discarding. Don't leave the garlic in the dressing as it can be a breeding ground for botulism spores.
  4. TO MAKE THE GREENS
  5. Heat grill (I use a caste iron pan grill) over a medium flame until the grates are hot.
  6. Meanwhile, slice the clean heart of Romaine in half vertically. Brush the cut side with a bit of oil and place firmly on the hot grill,
  7. Allow to char for 30 seconds to a minute.
  8. Remove immediately, dress, garnish and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Grilled Caesar Salad--the dressing

Grilled Caesar--Grilling Romaine and Making Croutons

Nutrition & Storage:  Remember, of all the fruits and vegetables, greens are the most nutrient dense.  You should eat greens (or “leaves” as my husband calls them) every day—cooked or raw.  Of all the salad greens, Romaine is not only among the most nutritious but also the hardiest.  It stays fresh in the fridge longer than more tender varieties. Wash them, spin them dry, and store them in a salad spinner.  I like this OXO. It’s kept my Romaine crisp and fresh for 2 weeks or more stored like this.

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Kale & Pear Winter Slaw

Kale & Pear Winter Slaw

“Three kinds of kale, Seckel pears, two kinds of chili peppers and honey.”   That was the text message I received from the farm manager in my response to my question, “What crops to you have in plentiful supply?” The farm manager works for Walnut Way Conservation Corp, a community organization in Milwaukee that uses vacant city lots to grow produce as part of their mission to revitalize the neighborhood.  I posed the question because they had invited me to do a cooking-based nutrition workshop to help promote their produce at their annual Harvest Celebration.

Kale & Pear Winter Slaw--3 kale varieties

(left to right) Curly Kale, Red Winter Kale, Lacinato or Tuscan or Black Kale

It seems like a game show challenge for harried home cooks.  “What recipe can you develop using these 4 ingredients?”  Because I wind up a contestant on this game show more nights than I would like to admit,  I have gained some skill in meal-time problem-solving. It didn’t take me long to come up with this kale salad which incorporates 3 out of the 4 ingredients.   I could have incorporated all 4 adding a minced red chili pepper for a bit of heat, but I chose a more conservative path focusing on the sweet and tangy flavors.Kale--cold water bath

Among greens, kale falls into the “hardy” category. This means it generally should be cooked in water or it will remain too tough and too bitter to eat.  However in this recipe, the acid from the apple cider vinegar does the “cooking”. The result is a hardy slaw, one that stands up longer than its cabbage cousin.  Crisp pears, tart cranberries, crunchy pecans, assertive onions, smoky bacon, and sweet honey all combine nicely adding layers of complimentary flavors and textures to the pleasantly chewy kale slaw.

Kale & Pear Winter Slaw--girls prep
Kale--separating leaf from stalk

 

Kale & Pear Winter Slaw
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6-8 servings
 
Make this recipe after the first frost when kale becomes sweeter and even more tender.
Ingredients
  • INGREDIENTS
  • 12 oz. kale—a tender variety like Red Winter or Lacinato works best
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 2 medium-sized firm pears, peeled and diced—about 1 ½ cups
  • 4 rashers bacon, fried crisp
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • DRESSING
  • ⅓ cup grape seed or olive oil
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • ½ t crushed black pepper
Instructions
  1. Prepare kale by tearing the stalks from the leaves. Swish kale leaves in a deep, cold water bath until all dirt falls to the bottom. Next stack clean leaves and roll tightly together. Slice the roll lengthwise and then crosswise into very thin, short strips.
  2. Make dressing by combining salt, pepper, vinegar, and honey. Then slowly drizzle in oil whisking constantly or blending on high with an electric blender.
  3. Toss half the dressing with the chopped kale and let it set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, chop cranberries and slice onions; set aside.
  5. Peel pears and dice into ¼ inch cubes. Keep diced pears in a bowl with ½ cup water and 1 T vinegar to prevent browning.
  6. Toast pecans—place pecans in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat stirring constantly for 1—2 minutes until golden. Remove from pan and chop.
  7. In the same skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, drain on a paper towel, and finely chop.
  8. Toss all ingredients together, adjust salt and pepper seasoning, and serve at room temperature or chill and serve later. This salad gets better with time.
Notes
Substitute smoked tempeh or ½ teaspoon liquid smoke for a bacon-free slaw.

 

Stack cleaned and prepped leaves; roll tightly together; slice into thin ribbons

Stack cleaned and prepped leaves; roll tightly together; slice into thin ribbons

Kale ribbons--wilting in the dressingCooking with Kids:  Little kids were made for cleaning greens. Ripping the leaf from the stalk without a care  followed by swishing the leaves in a deep cold water bath—this comes as close to pure cooking fun as you can get for a little kid. No admonishments to be careful or to not spill; no overseeing their technique.  I have been having my kids clean greens since they could walk.

They also enjoy making the dressing.  When they were very small (3 and under), I had them shake it like crazy in a jar.  They have graduated to using the noisy immersion blender.  For a kid, nothing compares to the joy derived from using a noisy tool.

Getting kids to eat dark leafy greens can be a challenge, but try.  Greens are the most important plant food you can eat for long-term health. Because my children like salad, I told them that this is a kale salad (which it is) and avoided the use of the word slaw–something new.  I won’t lie, this was their first time trying it and they weren’t wild about it.  That said they did take a bite but said no thanks to more. The man liked it and so did I, which is enough for me to make it again and again and again. They will try it each time and I guarantee that they will come around to accepting it perhaps even requesting it. Courage, Dear Parents! Be relentless!IMG_6005

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Gazpacho—Salad Gone to Soup

A certain ambiguity takes over when tomato season comes bursting in. Vine ripened, locally-grown tomatoes are hands-down the best veggie in the world. Not only are they delicious sliced and eaten on their own, but they also lend themselves to so many cooking applications. Just image what Italian or Indian food looked like before Columbus brought back this versatile fruit to the Old World—a dull culinary landscape for sure!

But as much as I love tomatoes, the short season can transform me into a galley slave as my inner ant kicks in, and I begin to work feverishy to squirrel them away in anticipation of the winter months to come. While I am passionate about preserving, canning 22 pounds of tomatoes could steal anyone’s joy.

That is why gazpacho is such a blessing. Not only is it a refreshing, easy-to-make, ready-to-eat, delicious cold soup, but it also freezes very nicely.   I know what you’re thinking–more processing?!  But relax. Gazpacho doesn’t require the hullabaloo of removing skins, and you get a preserved product at the same time you made dinner.

Classic Gazpacho
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 servings
 
This is my launching point recipe, but you can tweak it with different spices to blend with many different cuisines.
Ingredients
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped herbs (any combination of basil, tarragon, parsley, dill, oregano or chives)
  • 2 or 3 slices stale bread
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 lbs. cucumber, peeled and de-seeded
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes, cored and de-seeded
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients one by one to a food processor or blender and puree. If you don't have a food processor, finely chop ingredients and mix. Serve with bread, cheese or summer sausage for a light quick meal.
Notes
You can create other versions based on different cuisines by changing ingredients. Think of gazpacho as a finely chopped or puréed salad and then let your imagination go. MEXICAN: Tomatillos or tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno pepper, cucumber, bread, garlic, olive oil, and lime. Garnish with cubed avocado. INDIAN: Tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red pepper, radishes, green chili, cumin, tomato paste, vegetable stock, garlic, bread, olive oil, and lemon. FRENCH: Tomatoes alone with lemon, tarragon and parsley garlic, bread, olive oil. GREEK: Follow the recipe for Classic Gazpacho above using oregano and parsley as the herbs. Also add a sweet red bell pepper and kalamata olives. Garnish with cubed feta.

Preserve It: Place gazpacho in freezer-safe bags or plastic containers in desired proportions, then label and freeze.  I like to put the gazpacho in 1 – 2 cup plastic containers leaving 1-inch headspace for expansion in the freezer.  I use these later in packed lunches.  They keep the lunch cool while defrosting.