ROCKLAND, Maine — This recipe emerged at the Marquis de Lafayette Hotel in Cape May. The owner, an eccentric type, decided that he didn’t like the usual Caesar salad dressing and that his chefs should compete to invent a new one. Now, I was the pastry chef. It wasn’t really my area at the time. This was one of those cases where ignorance is an advantage. While all the real cooks were carefully whisking away with forks, I threw eggs, olive oil, garlic, Romano and basil (no anchovies) into a blender. I won. Caesar was dead.
Serves 2 (with dressing left over)
1 tbsp/11 g Romano cheese, grated
1 pasteurized egg yolk
4 leaves basil
¼ cup/60 ml vegetable oil
½ cup/120 ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp/9 ml water
1 whole clove garlic
2½ tsp/12 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ⁄3 head hearts of romaine lettuce, ripped into bite-size chunks
¼ red onion, sliced thinly
8 (1"/2.5 cm) chunks of fresh Focaccia (page 159) or other crusty bread
¼ cup/10 g radicchio, shredded
¼ cup/44 g Romano or Parmesan cheese, shredded
Coarsely ground black pepper
Roasted red peppers
Place all the dressing ingredients, except the oil, in your trusty food processor and spin until the mixture is pale. Slowly add the oil. You are making an emulsion, as you would for mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce, and if you add too much oil at once you’ll get an oily, broken dressing. Once all the oil has been added, set aside.
Put the lettuce, onion, bread and radicchio in a large stainless-steel bowl. Add the dressing and toss. Plate, sprinkling with the Romano and ground pepper and arranging red peppers on top, where the anchovies usually go.
Mangia! And beware the Ides of March.
Chef’s Tip: Pasteurized egg yolks are available in the frozen section of the grocery store. You can also use a yolk from a very fresh large egg—local and/or organic is safest.