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Friday
Oct092009

Lime and Feta Caesar Salad with Tortilla Croutons

lime caesar

On my way up to Bellingham with the kids last weekend, we stopped at one of the roadside produce stands.  Is there anything better than Skagit Valley produce in October?  We got apples, pears, apple cider, kale, an incredible baguette from The Breadfarm, carrots, and Wyatt stood in the truck-bed and picked out 10 ears of corn.

When we got home the next day, we had lots of random bits and a neglected fridge as dinner inspiration.  A few times a month, we don't have dinner proper, but just bits of this and that.  The kids would prefer we eat this way every night.  I think most children find it strange that adults take perfectly good components and mush them all together on one forkful.  So we had corn on the cob, fried baguette slices with roasted garlic and chévre, sauteed kale and chard, and this salad.  Wyatt ate three pieces of corn.  Nothing else. Loretta had 1/2 piece of corn and then licked the chévre off several pieces of bread.  The stripped corn cobs mounted, and Yancey and I had lots of time to catch up after being apart.

Yancey and I have a joke that he barely gets a bite in his mouth before I say, "How is it?" or "It's good, isn't it?"  He calls the latter a "statement question," meaning, "It's good, and you will agree with me."  So I've been trying to lay off a bit, but he was praising this salad at first bite.  He's a Caesar Salad Guy from way back.  We started dating in high school, and he used to eat my Mom's Caesar Salad on Sunday nights--with the Murphy family in front of the fireplace, answering questions about his basketball game or begging my mom to make my curfew later.

My mom made Caesar back when it was totally novel and most home cooks wouldn't dream of making their own salad dressings.  That's one thing I have never, ever seen in my mom's fridge--a bottle of purchased salad dressing.  You won't find it in my fridge, either--you can't come close to the freshness and flavor of something you whisk up yourself.  But even in 2009, the myth persists that making your own dressing is hard.  Mostly, you've got to trust yourself, tasting along the way, and stick to a basic ratio of 1 part acid (vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice) to three parts oil or emulsifying agent (olive oil, vegetable oil, mayo).  I always add my emulsifier last so I can keep an eye on when the dressing comes together.  If I throw everything in at once, it's harder to correct the acid/fat ratio.

Because we are salad freaks, this is a something we'd eat as a main course, maybe with some bread on the side.  Once you've gotten out 20 bottles to make your dressing, you might as well make the damn salad your centerpiece.  And maybe your audience won't need  a statement question before they praise it.  (Yancey, I hope you're taking notes.)

Lime and Feta Caesar Salad with Tortilla Croutons
I've made Caesar dressing so many ways throughout the years--with raw egg or without, with anchovies or without.  I still experiment all the time, but one thing that's been consistent the last couple years is using mayo.  I find it gives me the creaminess I always longed for with egg but had a hard time achieving.  This definitely isn't a low-fat salad, and most Caesars aren't.  But you'll get your roughage for the day, and your cancer-fighting garlic, too.  If you have one of those gargantuan heads of romaine, don't use all of it for this salad unless you add more of everything else.

For salad:
1 small head romaine lettuce, washed and coarsely chopped
6 corn tortillas, cut into strips
4 Tb. vegetable oil
salt
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c. finely grated pecorino  cheese

For dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 flat anchovies, finely chopped
salt
freshly ground pepper
2 Tb. finely grated pecorino cheese
1 jalapéno, seeded and finely chopped
3 Tb. olive oil
2 Tb. mayo

To make dressing, whisk everything but olive oil and mayo together.  Add olive oil and mayo, whisking until smooth.  The mayo will make the dressing look lumpy at first, but some brisk wrist action will smooth it out. Taste, adding more of anything to your liking. Don't be afraid of salt!  Dressings should be on the salty side since there's a little bit spread out over a large surface area.

To make croutons, heat vegetable oil until shimmering in a large heavy skillet.  Fry tortilla strips until golden and crispy, turning once if necessary.  This will take about 3 minutes.  Remove with tongs and let them drain on a paper towel-lined towel.  Sprinkle with coarse salt.

To assemble salad, use your hands to toss the romaine with most of the cheese, dressing, and about 1/2 the croutons. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and croutons on top, and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Reader Comments (16)

sounds and looks delicious. plus, a perfect way to use up random corn tortillas. i can't wait to eat salad and catch up with you!

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbethany

Your salads are some of my favorite things about your house. Sometimes for a treat I go across the street and order a Caesar Salad with no cheese and light on the dressing. Still feels decadent with all that creamy dressing on top, croutons, and romaine. Yum! I'm ready for dinner and ready for the weekend.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm

you are so damn cute!!!!!

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermfm

This salad looks so refreshing! I love the lime and feta mix....yum!

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNutmeg Nanny

Dressing with no egg yolks, I like it. I'll try. I'm always afraid to use egg yolks in ceasar salad. Look delish.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHélène

was in a dish store tonight near union square + picked up a biz card to send you. i thought, "oooh. gonna have to guide sarah to this one!"
true story: i've actually had scenario's in my head about making a galette, one of your cookie recipes, or some other yum-yum on here, taking it to an even (the group of gals i meet with sunday pms, perhaps?), and as folks have that "omg! this is incredible" look on their face, i proceed to sing your praises -- and pass out your biz card. then i laugh at myself for the fact that i'm already anticipating the entire situation. (some do say i'm prophetic. not really. maybe.).
love from one of your MANY "biggest fans"--
j.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjordan

I know this is ridiculous, but that spoon totally reminds me of jordan.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

I'm with Wyatt - nibble meals are my favorite too. And as corn tortillas have lately been on my must-have pantry list, I can't wait to try them out as croutons, good idea.

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth R&V

Love what you said about getting out all the bottles! I agree! I can't believe the mess I can make by just making dressing!

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Cox

Sarah - salad looks beautiful and sound nummy. We will give it a try this week. I made the chard broc pizza last night. It was a lifesaver for a friend of ours - his fridge compressor went out yesterday and he was trying to find homes for all his food. Our house was his last stop - so he joined us for pizza. Oh.so.good.

Kale Salad recipe: 2 bunches of black kale, torn from the stems and ripped into chunks. Olive oil (I don't know how much...maybe a few Tb?), 3 cloves of garlic, salt, 3 TB lemon juice, 1/4 c bread crumbs and 1/4 c parm cheese, red pepper flakes.

Put the kale in a large bowl - finely chop the garlic and smash a good pinch of salt into it. (You know, shmear it in with the knife) Toss the kale with the garlic/salt mix and add olive oil - massage it all in and mix well. I let it sit for a bit while I get the rest of dinner ready - let all the leaves soak in the good stuff. Add the lemon juice and mix. Toss with bread crumbs, cheese and red pepper.

It is totally addictive - we LOVE the stuff. I am make ginger peach butter today - then off to the Farmer's Market to get lots more black kale!

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth DeK

:)

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjordan

I am not sure I have seen black kale? I live in michigan and work at a natural health foods store, and I don't think I have seen it there. Could you use regular kale for this recipe? It sounds good! and so does your ginger peach butter!

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

You should try pasteurized eggs the next time you want to make a caesar salad. They're safe to eat raw and the process to get rid of bacteria is completely natural.

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

Hi Ellie! Haven't heard of this, but am curious now. Thanks for the tip!

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

I agree--Beth's recipe sounds so delicious. Thanks for sharing it, Beth. It will be on the MK table soon.

Jess, even though I haven't made Beth's recipe yet, I'm certain regular kale would work great.

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

This sounds like a recipe Amity would love. I'm gonna try it next week. I didn't get kale today.

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm

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