I am not now, or have ever been, a big Caesar Salad person. Probably because creamy dressings really aren't my thing. They just seem, in every way, unhealthy. Yep, I said it. Filled with cream or mayo, or something I just really don't need. So, when my sister suggested making a Roasted Red Pepper Caesar Salad, I was like.... nah.... But, then I thought about it -- and I thought about how many people love such salads and are going out of their way to purchase ready made dressings, filled with unnecessary saturated fat and chemicals. I don't think a lot of people ( including myself) realize how easy it is to actually make a caesar dressing from scratch, and how much better it not only tastes, but is for you. That's the thing about living on the edge and eating heavy dishes -- if you make them yourself, than you can control the quality of ingredients and the overall heaviness of the dish.
The other part about caesar salads that basically bores me, is the fact that they are generally made up of basic romaine lettuce, the dressing and croutons. I like a salad that has layers -- that is filled with a mixture of greens and flavors, and has color. I also like a salad that feels like a complete meal, and doesn't need a slab of meat thrown on top of it, to do so. That is why I went against every tradition and paired my caesar with sautéed asparagus and beautiful purple brussel sprouts. This added an element to the salad that made it more complete in my mind. Especially if you add the half roasted red pepper on top and the homemade croutons. It felt like a full meal, that wasn't just heavy dressing on some greens and bread.
I hope you enjoy this take on Caeser Salad -- let me know what you think. There are so many ways to change up traditional recipes to give them a new life and through this series I want to do just that.
2-3 large Red Peppers
1 Pasteurized Egg, at room temperature
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, at room temperature
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1-2 cloves Garlic, grated
4 tbsp fresh Lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp Anchovy Paste, or a small piece of Anchovy
the salad bits
1 bag of baby Kale, or your favorite greens
1 package of thin Asparagus
1 cup of purple Brussel Sprouts, or any Brussel Sprouts
2-3 cloves of Garlic, sliced
2-3 sprigs of Fresh Thyme
Salt + Pepper
rustic herb Sourdough Croutons
1 loaf of fresh sourdough bread, or your bread of choice
3-4 sprigs of Thyme, chopped
5-6 sprigs of fresh Chives, chopped
2-3 cloves of Garlic, grated
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
Extra Virgin Garlic Olive Oil , or any evoo
Salt + Pepper
roasting the red pepper
We will begin this journey by roasting the red peppers. Preheat the oven to a high broil. Cut the red pepper’s straight down the middle of the stem. I like a rustic feel to my food, so I leave the steams on the vegetable. Remove all seeds and inside bits. On a greased baking sheet, lay out the peppers face down, with the skin up. Do not put anything on the peppers. We want to blacken the outside, so to remove the skin, leaving the roasted meat. Place in broiler, or in oven on the top rack. It will take roughly 15-25 minutes to blacken the skin. I checked mine every 5 minutes, turning the baking sheet at about 15 minutes in, so to evenly blacken. You want all of the skin to be black, or at least 90% of it to be. Refer to the images below, my peppers were about 90% black when I took them out.
Once you remove the peppers from the oven, cover them with a moist paper towel for 10 minutes. This helps release the skin from the meat of the roasted pepper.
Next, carefully remove the skin from the pepper using your hands. It should come off quite easily. Make sure to remove all the burnt bits, so not to bring a burnt flavor into the dressing. I always roast extra peppers than needed for the dressing, so I can add a roasted pepper to the top of the salad. I pick out what pieces to keep whole and what pieces to blend, keeping a couple to the side.
making the dressing
Using a blender or mixing device, blend 3-4 pieces of red pepper. You can add a dash of water or oil here if you are using a bender and need some liquid to help get it moving. Remove sauce and place to the side. No need to rinse out the blender.
Next, combine all the ingredients for the dressing (except the red pepper) in the blender or a bowl. Make sure your egg and oil are at room temperature. Using a blender or immersion blender, mix together all ingredients, until the dressing has emulsified. This will only take a few seconds. Give it a stir, and taste to adjust the seasoning. Tasting is key to getting it just perfect. You may want a little more anchovy, lemon or garlic. I always add more cracked pepper.
Next, we will mix in the red pepper sauce. I mix it in bit by bit, tasting as I go. I always leave a small tbsp or so to the side to plate with.
I used my vitamix to blend the dressing.
On to the Greens
the brussels + asparagus
You can either next sauté the brussel sprouts and asparagus, or you can do this section while the red peppers are in the oven. The key to making the perfect roasted vegetable to pair with a salad, is not to over cook them. I like a good crunch to any roasted veggie, especially when it will be served at room temperature. So, I quickly marinated the brussel sprouts and asparagus, in extra virgin olive oil, sliced fresh garlic, fresh thyme, garlic powder and salt + pepper. I let the veggies sit for at least 10 minutes before I cooked them.
Using 2 frying pans, over medium to high heat, sauté the veggies separately. Cook for only 5-6 minutes, until they begin to soften. Remove the asparagus from the pan and place in a bowl to cool.
Remove the brussel sprouts from heat and cover for about five minutes, before you also move them the bowl to cool. You may think you are under cooking the vegetables, but they will continue to soften as they sit. Especially if you did this step while the red peppers are in the broiler. Make sure you remove them from the hot pans to cool, otherwise they will continue to cook and loose the crunch.
Using your fresh bread of choice, mine being a sourdough, slice 1 inch pieces. Next, tear them into smaller crouton sized bits, or continue to cut them down into 1 in x 1 in squares. Place in a mixing bowl and nicely cover with the evoo. I used my favorite garlic olive oil from trader joes. Sprinkle in the chopped herbs, garlic and salt + pepper.
Using a large frying pan, coated with evoo over high heat, sauté the bread bits until they begin the brown. Add in more herbs, garlic, salt + pepper - as seen fit. About 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool.
Note: I also fried larger pieces of bread, as seen below, to plate with. This is merely a choice.
We now assemble ! Yes, the best part. You will want to wait to dress the baby kale until right before you serve them, as they will wilt quickly with such a heavy dressing. A little goes a long way with caesar, so begin by mixing in very small amounts. I mixed a handful of the brussel sprouts into the baby kale and kept a handful to the side, along with the asparagus to simply plate onto of the mixed greens. You can see the different inspirations below for plating, or make it family style! This is your chance to make it beautiful. I believe that presentation is key, even if you are cooking for one.
Keep refrigerated and eat within a few weeks.
Raw eggs can very rarely contain bacteria that can make you sick. That’s why I use pasteurized eggs for any recipe that calls for raw or under cooked eggs. Pasteurized eggs have been heated to a temperature that kills any possible bacteria, but is not hot enough to cook the egg. You can find pasteurized eggs in most supermarkets now, and they can be used just like any other eggs.
I paired mine with some french red table wine and some burning palo santo.