It wasn’t until college that I tried Caesar salad for the first time. Rather, it wasn’t until an inevitable order mixup during the daily lunch rush at Espresso Roma that I fell truly, madly deeply, head over heels in love with this lettuce that was nothing like the Iceberg to which I had been accustomed, drowning in what I thought was a Ranch dressing gone horribly, yet so wonderfully, rank.
In a valiant, albeit ignorant, attempt at battling a stubborn, unyielding Freshman 15, I dove into the Caesar Salad every time I sat down at one of Espresso Roma’s wobbly tables made stable with a thrice-folded cover page yanked off a set of Black Lightning lecture notes. It never occurred to me that whatever little nutritional value in Romaine lettuce that wasn’t negated by a deluge of Caesar dressing was completely eliminated by Roma’s “crouton.” A razor thin, bias-cut slice of bread was made impossibly crisp by possibly coating both sides with garlic butter, dredging it in Parmesan, then deep-frying it. I used the crouton as a plebeian utensil and scraped up every last fat-calorie left in Roma’s wooden salad bowl like the collegiate pauper I was.
Surprisingly, my Freshman 15 didn’t budge. It bulged even futher into The Sophomore 20. Maybe it was 25, but that’s only because I stepped on the scale fully dressed, okay?!?!
A twist of fate between the Cashier and the Pick-up Counter resulted in interest, developed into an innocent crush, then accelerated into superficial satisfaction of phyical needs mistaken for love. When I was enlightened into The Delicious Life, my simple, college-level relationship with Caesar Salad was inadequate. It wasn’t enough to blindly accept a salad of unknown origin that varied in composition from restaurant. Who is Caesar? What makes it a Caesar salad when the composition varies widely across restaurants? Why does the dressing have a light fish fragrance? Where does the salad come from, since I often see it in both Italian and Mexican restaurants? I wanted to fully understand the Caesar Salad. I wanted to take it to the next level.
Perhaps there are some things that I don’t ever need to know. Maybe it was a mistake to google Caesar Salad in an attempt to make it at home. I learned more than I ever needed or wanted to know about the history of Caesar Salad. It changed the way I felt. If ignorance is bliss, then knowing that Caesar Cardini invented the salad in Mexico and that it is supposed to be made tableside, with raw eggs, without anchovies, is misery.
My heart was broken.
Every time I saw Caesar Salad on a menu, two halves of my heart would go into conflict. If the restaurant prepared it the way it was "supposed to be," with raw eggs and Worcestershire sauce in the dressing, the foodish snob in me would be impressed. However, I would be reluctant to order it because raw eggs make me cringe. If the restaurant prepared it in any other way, I'd order it without thinking. I'd relish Romaine lettuce chopped with a knife, roasted garlic cloves tossed with the greens, creamy dressing thickened with anything but emulsified eggs, whole anchovies draped over top, and unnaturally perfect cubes of factory-seasoned bread that any other Semi Ho would call "stuffing."
Suffice it to say that at some point, I had to let the guilt go. Anchovies never tasted so good.
Grilled Romaine “Caesar” Salad Recipe
I listen to music when I cook. For some reason, Guns N Roses is appropriate for grilling.
Remove broken and discolored outer leaves from whole heads of Romaine lettuce, quarter lengthwise, rinse quarters, and shake dry.
Brush cut surfaces of lettuce with olive oil, then place on hot grill for about a minute on each cut side until leaves barely wilt.
Drizzle with Caesar dressing and garnish with croutons and shards or shavings of Parmesan cheese.
** a year ago today, egg mcmuffin is the reason i shuttle **
** two yeara ago today, i made dinner with garlic; i got sapphires in return **