I don’t think people realize how simple it is to make a Caesar salad entirely from scratch! Seriously, if you can whisk ingredients together and use a knife, you’re well-qualified my friend. This recipe is simple to follow and takes about 30 minutes to come together!
Dressing and croutons: store-bought vs. homemade
Make no mistake, I would never dispute the convenience and tastiness of bottled dressing! Although I make most of my own, my fridge doors are packed with bottles of store-bought dressing! I prefer home-made dressing for a few reasons, though:
- I know exactly what’s in it.
- I can control what’s in it.
- No (or at least fewer) preservatives.
- You get to brag about it to your friends!
I prefer homemade croutons for many of the same reasons above! And while you can get some really great bottled dressing, I have yet to find a bag of store-bought croutons that’s knocked my socks off. Seriously, croutons are so easy! If you can toast bread, you can make croutons. I only bake them for about 10 minutes. I like them toasty and crunchy, but not rock-hard!
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way…
Yes there are raw egg yolks in the dressing. Yes there are anchovies (paste) in the dressing. Sorry, not sorry. I’m a foodie. We like cringe-worthy ingredients. I know raw yolks and anchovies make some people very squeamish, but that’s just Caesar dressing for you.
Why do I use anchovy paste and not whole anchovies?
Because sometimes I don’t feel like reaching for my food processor. That’s really it. Some people swear by only using whole anchovies, but I think paste makes just as good of a dressing. Plus it mixes easily and I get a few batches of dressing from using a single tube.
Whole anchovies, anchovy paste, they’re both ok in my book.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Prepare your croutons!
All you need to do is cube (or tear) your bread and toss the cubes in a bowl with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Once the croutons are evenly coated, spread them out on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. For crunchier croutons, bake for 15.
Step 2: Prepare the dressing
While the croutons are in the oven, beat your egg yolks using a wire whisk and slowly add your oils (olive and canola) in a slow, steady stream. This is called emulsifying, it’s when you combine two liquids that normally don’t come together easily.
The dressing will get to a point where it starts to stiffen and get really thick. I did say this Caesar salad was simple, I didn’t say it wouldn’t require a little muscle! Feel free to use a stand mixer on low-speed for this part.
Once you add the lemon juice, it will thin the dressing out and you’ll be able to easily whisk in the remaining ingredients (anchovy paste, dijon mustard, Parmiggiano cheese and garlic powder).
Add some fresh black pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need to add any salt.
Step 3: Assemble your salad!
Place your chopped romaine in a large bowl and add about a tablespoon of dressing at a time, tossing in between. I usually use about ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of dressing in total. Some people like to go light on the dressing, others go heavy, so let your preference guide you.
I like to transfer this simple Caesar salad to an oval platter when I’m feeling fancy, but feel free to leave it right in the mixing bowl. Top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, your homemade croutons and a sprinkle of fresh black pepper!
Simple Caesar Salad with Whole-Grain Croutons
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 3 teaspoon anchovy paste
- ½ lemon juiced
- ½ teaspoon ½ tsp. dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese finely shredded, or a few flakes of shaved
- pepper to taste
- 1 small whole-grain or ancient-grain baguette
- few teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- sprinkle of salt and pepper
- 2 romaine lettuce hearts rinsed and dried
- ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shaved
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Cut the baguette into cubes and toss them in a bowl with olive oil and seasonings, until evenly coated. Arrange the bread cubes on the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 10-15 minutes, until desired crispiness is reached.
- Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl and add both oils (one at a time) in a slow and steady stream while continuing to whisk. The eggs and oil should be slightly thicker and stiffer than the consistency of mayonnaise. Add lemon juice to thin the dressing, and mix in the anchovy paste, dijon mustard, garlic powder, Parmigiano cheese and black pepper. Set the dressing aside until you’re ready to use it.
- Chop the romaine and place in large bowl. Add the dressing 1 tablespoon at a time (I use about 4 tablespoons) and toss the salad using tongs, until the lettuce is evenly coated in dressing. Add the croutons and remaining cheese, toss one more time and serve.