They say you can’t stop time. But when you have a bowl of fresh greens tossed with love and garlic and crunchy homemade croutons, you can come pretty close.
As long as I can remember, my food-loving father, George, has been on a quest for the ultimate Caesar salad. He started out back in the 1970s with his own secret ingredient: a European kitchen heritage that instilled him with a natural passion for flavors, aromas and freshness.
As the years passed, the ever-curious George immersed himself in conversations with cooks at neighborhood dives and chefs at some of the world’s best restaurants. As an engineer, he even designed his own garlic press. It makes sense. There’s something about a Caesar that’s both straightforward and complex – a lot like my dad, really.
As he gleefully refined his recipe, the salad in its giant wooden bowl was a familiar guest at all our family gatherings. Birthdays. Holidays. Every days.
My dad has always had a knack for marking time by tearing greens, pressing garlic, toasting croutons, squeezing lemons. For me, these simple rituals became a recurring culinary theme, creating the sort of reassuring kitchen soundtrack that narrates any family’s life.
When my mom was battling cancer, George was at the hospital with his cure-all salad, tossing it bedside. When faraway family and friends requested his salad for their own celebrations, he became a traveling Caesar guy, packing his pungent dressing into an airplane carryon (occasionally spilling it and arriving smelling brilliantly of garlic).
My dad even insisted on making his Caesar for my wedding reception, tossing it to the rhythms of wind, waves and music on a stormy day at a funky beachfront jazz club.
Over the years, George’s Caesar salad has continued to be our family’s lemony, garlicky way of marking time – and we always promise to make it the next time we’re together.
These days, “next time” often isn’t quite what we imagined. All around the globe, the pandemic has become its own ingredient in cooking up the details of when and how we’ll be able to meet. But no matter what’s going on in this mixed-up world, family recipes are always a great way to connect.
So this Father’s Day, I’ll make and serve my dad’s Caesar salad on Facetime or Zoom or whatever works for him – with perfectly pressed garlic and lots of love.
George’s Caesar salad
For the dressing:
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 oz. (½ can) finely chopped anchovy fillets
- 6 cloves fresh garlic, squeezed in a garlic press or finely minced
- ½ tsp. dry mustard
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
For the croutons:
- 2 cups day-old sourdough bread, cut into 1" cubes (or use your favorite prepared croutons)
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 pressed garlic cloves or ¼ tsp. garlic powder
For the salad:
- 2 heads romaine lettuce, washed and torn or cut into ¾" strips
- 2 coddled eggs (gently boil for 2 minutes, then scoop out of shells)
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix thoroughly to emulsify the dressing.
- To make the croutons, on a griddle or in a sauté pan over low heat, combine olive oil, butter and garlic. When they're gently sizzling, add bread cubes. Stir croutons with a spatula until golden brown.
- To make the salad, pour just enough dressing over lettuce so that the leaves glisten (don't let dressing collect at the bottom of the bowl). Toss thoroughly. Add coddled eggs, parmesan cheese and croutons. Toss again, season with freshly ground pepper – and enjoy with people you love!
This post comes to us courtesy of writer and Williams Sonoma creative consultant Laura Martin Bacon.