Sometimes, a few simple components can be combined to create an instant classic. I think of a Caesar salad like a perfect rhythm section — Romaine, Parmesan, anchovies and croutons: drums, bass, guitar and piano. Or like a four part harmony: bass, tenor, alto and soprano. Each part of the group does its simple job exquisitely. The four elements combine to reach a quintessence, a fifth harmony. A few simple ingredients can go a long way. But what do you do when you’re missing a vital component?
So my wife really loves my Caesar salad. Most of the time, I stick to the traditional standard, maybe adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a pepperoncini pepper to the mix every now and then. (So essentially, what she really loves is my Caesar dressing.) But recently, yet another E. coli outbreak has rendered U.S. Romaine lettuce inedible, (and perhaps our government less credible, but alas).
So I improvised. Enter the Belgian endive, an under-celebrated lettuce with a bitter flavor profile. It needs some love. I knew broiling it could coax out some sweetness, and I had an idea for the Deconstructed “Caesar” Salad. Here’s my attempt at a harmonious substitution.
NOTE: This is a bit easier if you can make the dressing and pesto ahead of time. I usually blend some up (I use a Ninja for both) and leave them in glass bottles or squeeze bottles in the fridge door. They both keep for about two weeks (but rarely last that long). I’ll post the recipe for the pesto in a subsequent recipe.
1 clove garlic
1 small shallot
2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp anchovies or anchovy paste
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Blend them all in a blender or food processor until smooth. It’s really that simple.
2 Belgian endives, halved and rinsed
1 slice brioche bread, or other roll of your choice
1/2 of one medium green apple, diced
2 oz Parmesan cheese
fresh black pepper
Caesar dressing (recipe above)
basil pesto (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the broiler. Place the endives on the sheet, cut side up. Dice the bread and scatter it on the sheet along with the apple cubes. Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil, salt and pepper it, and grate the cheese on top of everything. Let it broil for about 3 minutes, being careful not to burn the bread.
Remove the food from the oven, Squirt a bit of basil pesto onto the plate, if you like. Plate the endives and apples along with all of the cold ingredients — pomegranate seeds, caper berries, and anchovies. Finally, crack some black pepper on it and dress the salad with the Caesar dressing. Enjoy!