Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Sometimes You Don't Want to Know
There are certain places where it is good be a vegetarian. Large cosmopolitan cities or college towns, for example. But even in those places, it can be tricky to eat out. Even in our fair city, where Patagonia outnumbers Prada by 20:1 and farmers markets abound, it can be difficult to stick to plant based food in restaurants.
Once in a while, I find myself starving and faced with only a soup or Caesar salad as an option. The soup looks vegetarian, sounds vegetarian but I just bet it has chicken stock. The Caesar almost certainly has anchovies but even if it doesn't, it most likely has Worcestershire sauce which contains anchovies and therefore, isn't veg. But sometimes you are starving and there is no other option. So you just don't ask the questions you know will harm you and you don't think about what you might be eating.
I love Caesar salad. For me, Caesar is an excuse to eat croutons and Parmesan cheese along with some lettuce and what is usually a gloppy dressing. The non-veg and gloppy factors are why I really just prefer to make it myself at home. I can't remember where I first got the recipe for this dressing - it is in a notebook of mine in my handwriting and I have tweaked even that over the years. It is different than what you might be used to, but the flavor is spot on. The consistency is more like a vinaigrette but you can certainly add more mayo if you like it thicker. You can find vegetarian Worcestershire sauce in places like Whole Foods. I also use it in a Baked Artichoke Dip recipe and for Bloody Marys.
Do yourself a favor. When you are making the croutons, make more than you will need for the salad. They are an awesome garnish for soup (hot or cold), and not too shabby as a snack. One final note. Traditionally, salad dressings are made with a 3:1 ratio of oil to acid. I find those proportions way too oily for my taste so I do more of a 2:1 ratio. You should feel free to add more olive oil to this if that suits your taste. The most important thing when making dressing is to taste as you go and adjust the flavors until they taste right to you.
Vegetarian Caesar Salad
For the Dressing:
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. mayonnaise (low fat is fine here)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
In a medium bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients until smooth. Add black pepper to taste. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly, until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
For the Croutons:
1 small loaf dense country bread
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(I don't like too much olive oil on my croutons so I use a light hand with the olive oil, but feel free to use more. I like mine crunchy on the outside and still chewy on the inside so I watch them pretty carefully and take them out when they are just starting to brown. If you want them really crunchy, leave them in until they are brown. You can always taste to make sure!)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the middle of the oven. Cut the each end off the bread and the carefully slice the crust off. Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and put onto a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with oil and sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like them. Remove from oven and let cool.
To finish the salad:
3 hearts of romaine
Parmesan cheese (either grated or shaved)
Cut the hearts of romaine into bite size pieces. Toss lettuce and dressing together in a large bowl. Right before serving, toss in the croutons. Garnish each plate with Parmesan cheese and a slice of lemon.