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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hearts of Romaine (De-constructed Caesar) Salad

"Hearts of Romaine Salad" is basically just a lazy way of doing up a Caesar Salad.

Myself, because I am a minimalist who dislikes pretension, I prefer that to the more obtrusive "De-Constructed" wording.

Actually, I tend to like 'de-constructed' dishes.  When executed well, they can be a delightfully novel way of preparing something common or everyday.  But they can be taken a little too far, and can ofttimes impose an over-inflated sense of value or allure to -what is at its heart (let us not forget) - something common.

The wording 'de-constructed' has always struck me negatively... basically you're admitting that it should have been something that the person knows and recognizes, but you're choosing to not fully assemble it.

So, with 'de-constructed caesar salad' I'm going to prefer to call it "Hearts of Romaine Salad" instead.  To me, that just sounds more honest.  It is a salad made with the romaine hearts still intact.



I've considered myself somewhat of a caesar salad aficionado over the years.  The vast majority of the ones I make for myself are simple, often just romaine lettuce and some light dressing.  However, once in a while I pull out all the stops and go crazy making an absolutely perfect caesar.

Some of these not-so-regular tricks include bacon (or some other, more pretentious analogue if you'd prefer: pancetta, guanciale, lardons, etc.) and copious amounts of garlic.  You can cook up the garlic on its own and then throw it in, or - what I prefer doing - slicing open some cloves and rubbing the salad bowl(s) with the wet garlic juice.  Top it off with some high-quality parmigiano reggiano and black pepper, and you can't go wrong.

So, here are some pics:

Choosing a good, fresh, organic head of Romaine is of course beyond mentioning.  Thoroughly washed and neatly trimmed, these hearts just got loosely placed in a large pasta bowl:

Even though I have a very nice pepper mill, I sometimes choose to go for a level of coarseness that can only be achieved by grinding the peppercorns yourself.

So these tellicherry peppercorns I would describe as being very coarsely ground.  Don't skimp on the black peppercorns in a caesar... they are absolutely essential!

After a very small amount of prep, these salads can sit for a short time until you're ready to eat.

See?  Super easy.  And pretty lazy.

I WILL say that there is something a bit more appetizing about seeing salad this way.  It seems a bit more inviting and elegant.  I know that that is just perception though.

Served with a fine light red (that's a pinot noir there), it's actually quite lovely.

And when dressed and ready to eat, looks delicious:

Yes it is easy to prepare and make this way, but it does mean that - when eating - a little more effort is required.  The wife took a more individualistic approach, eating each heart by itself kind of thing, but I just took a minute to cut them all up with a knife and fork.  It made it look less pretty, but it meant that everything was much more evenly distributed.

A small comment on dressing.  The best ones in my opinion are those with a very heavy garlic quotient.  A bit of lemon is good, and even a hint of anchovy is great.  Every Caesar I had in Europe actually had real anchovies in it (not just chopped, or as pieces in the dressing, but the full fish).  But garlic all the way... that is important.  And even though the bacon is an irregular extravagance here, I will say that it is crucial to not skimp on the dressing.  Sure there are some passable 'light' caesar dressings, and vinaigrettes, but nothing can compare to the creamy and thick ones.  Just accept that there's going to be some fat in your salad dressing, and make it delicious.

Anyway, this particular dressing is a 'garlic lover's' organic dressing.  Very thick and very, very, very garlicky.  It's my favourite.