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Monday, January 19, 2015

Caesar is NOT Italian

I am still south of the border working on my Mexican tan, eating plenty of local giant shrimp and taking long walks on the beach daily.  Last night at dinner in an upscale restaurant over-looking the sea I heard the next table of diners lamenting that Caesar salad was on the menu, “The restaurant reviews indicated that this was the best quality and most authentic cooking in town.  Can you imagine that they have put a Caesar salad on the menu?”  I didn’t feel it was my place to correct them but the Caesar salad actually originated in Mexico.

The Caesar salad was created in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924.  Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant operated a restaurant just across the border from San Diego.  It was the era of Prohibition and many Californians flocked to Tijuana for the 4th of July to enjoy a weekend with liquor.  Caesar’s restaurant ran out of most foods due to the overwhelming crowds…but people kept coming.  Apparently not much was left in the kitchen but some lettuce, eggs and bread.  Caesar made the smart decision to make the most of what he had by adding Italian olive oil, lime juice, Worcestershire, garlic and mustard.  To make up for the lack of ingredients, he decided to make the salad table-side…a bit of culinary theater.  The dramatic flair worked and the salad became a staple on Caesar’s menu from that moment on.

Julia Child said she ate a salad at Cardini’s restaurant when she was a child.  The first, however, documentation of the salad was at Lawry’s House of Prime Rib in Beverly Hills shortly after World War II.

Here’s my often-requested recipe, a mélange of several:

 3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
3 anchovies
½ teaspoon eachTabasco & Worchestershire
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 ½  tablespoon  red wine vinegar
*1 coddled egg (yolk only)
1 teaspoon coarsely freshly ground pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all the above ingredients, with the exception of the oil, in a cuisine-art and mix thoroughly.   Then,  with the cuisine art running at full speed, VERY slowly drizzle the olive oil (this should take at least 1-2 minutes, otherwise the oil will not incorporate well and the mixture will separate.)

Last, add ½ cup *freshly grated* Parmiggiano-Reggiano (don’t substitute!) and stir well.

Serve with homemade croutons and 3 heads of romaine.  Top salads with grated parmigiano-reggiano.   (Serves 4 persons a generous portion.) 

* Coddling is necessary to prevent salmonella.  Boil egg for 1 minute to raise interior temperature & kill any salmonella. 

Hail Caesar!  Viva Mexico!

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