Caesar Salad. One of the most popular salads out there. Many are done dreadfully, nothing more than a soupy, garlicky mess where the lettuce is reduced to sloppy threads, with mushy, mealy, stale croutons floating like flotsam in the flood.
I wanted the bright flavour of a good Caesar dressing, with a focus on extra vegetables in every step of a traditional Caesar salad.
Firstly, the dressing is normally an emulsion of egg yolk, anchovies, garlic, lemon and olive oil. I decided to emulsify roasted peppers with garlic and yogurt with a hint of roasted and braised leek. The roasted flavour would impart a mild smokiness to the dressing. Normally, there is also bacon involved, but in a food world overrun with bacon, I decided to leave it out entirely.
Secondly, I wanted a sharper flavoured cheese. Traditional Caesar salad has Parmesan. A beautiful cheese in its own right, I wanted a cheese that not only adds that salty burst that the cheese brings, but a crumbled textural component to the salad. Not quite the bacon crispness, but a variability in texture between it and the dressed romaine lettuce.
Thirdly, the crouton need not be a dry cube of bread. A good crouton is delicious and I’ll add them on occasion, but to achieve an almost endlessly crisp crouton, I decided on small cubes of fresh kohlrabi. Its cabbage/apple/potato like crispness and flavour compliments the overall combination incredibly well.
Lastly, the romaine lettuce is a beautiful lettuce, especially when it’s fresh from the earth. There is a crispness to the central spine of each leaf that needs to be respected. A light coating of dressing is all that is needed.
Roasted Pepper Caesar Salad
Roasted Pepper Caesar Dressing:
1/2 cup roasted peppers (2 sweet bell peppers roasted at 200C/425F for 30 minutes until deeply golden and blistered on the skin. Cover it with plastic wrap in a bowl for 20 minutes, peel, de-seed and chop roughly)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 leek, white part split lengthwise, pan roasted on both sides over medium high heat until deeply golden on both sides. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan and simmer over medium high heat until the water absorbs and evaporates (about 5-7 minutes).
Place all of the prepared ingredients for the dressing in a blender and purée until smooth. Set aside.
For the salad:
6 cups romaine lettuce, torn into rough 5cm/2″ pieces
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup kohlrabi, peeled and chopped into 1cm (1/2″) cubes
Reserved Roasted Pepper Caesar Dressing
In a large bowl, add the dressing to the bottom. Add the romaine lettuce, feta and kohlrabi cubes. Toss the salad with the dressing gently with your fingertips until lightly coated. Serves 2-3.