Brother Food: Caesar Salad

Caesar salad and slices of seedless watermelon

My two younger brothers are awesome. They were great kids, and now they’re great husbands and dads, with beautiful wives, and eleven kids between them.

Rick’s the older of the two. There was a few-year period, between when I graduated from high school and when he met his wife, when we were very close. We would stay up late at night and watch Carson and Letterman and Costas, and play our own Psychic version of Pictionary (mole-asses, hee!), and he would ask my advice on what to wear on dates. I taught him to tie a tie, and he helped me understand differential equations. Did I mention he’s a major genius? And that I really like him? I mourned some when he got married and I wasn’t his main family-hangout-friend any more, but I was young, and I’m over it. I love his wife and their eight marvelous kids, though we don’t see very much of each other.

This salad always makes me think of Rick, whose recipe was the first I ever used. It wasn’t authentic: a bottle of good store-bought Caesar dressing, a tub of shredded parmesan, some store-bought croutons, tossed with a bunch of chopped romaine. Still, I had never made a Caesar before, and it came really close to the ones I’d had in restaurants, so it’s what I did for many years.

Since then, I’ve made tons of Rick’s version. I’ve also made the real deal, with anchovies and coddled eggs and a rubbed garlic clove. Then one day, it occurred to me that egg + oil + acid (lemon juice) = mayonnaise, and I set out to make a Caesar dressing of my own that wouldn’t involve raw (or nearly raw) eggs. Nowadays, I don’t mind eating a raw egg or two now and then, but at the time, I was newly non-vegan, and I was squeamish.

Anyway, what I came up with was another one that’s decidedly not authentic, but it’s delicious, and it’s the second-most requested salad at my house. (The most requested salad is wheatberry salad, which is the kid’s current favorite of all the foods I make.)

Later, I’ll tell you a little bit about Mike, who is also way awesome. I am lucky to have two such wonderful siblings.

Caesar salad and slices of seedless watermelon

Shortcut Caesar Salad

1-2 heads romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces, washed, and dried
2-4 ounces (to taste) shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
a cup or two of homemade croutons (method follows, or use store-bought)

For the dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1 garlic clove, crushed
Dash of salt
Plenty of freshly ground black and/or white pepper, to taste
2 flat anchovy fillets, minced, or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste

Whisk the dressing together. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve. I’m not sure I really had to tell you that part, but hey.

Homemade croutons

Cut up some bread (almost any kind) into about 2 cups of cubes. Toss with a crushed garlic clove, a dash of salt, and a good drizzle (2 tablespoons or so) of oil. Alternatively, butter the bread before cubing it. Place on a cookie sheet, with or without foil or parchment for easy cleanup, and pop into a 400°F oven (no need to preheat). Bake, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until golden brown. Let cool on the cookie sheet before using.

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