Caesar Dressing

caesar-dressingMy lovely 16 year old son has become a salad eating afficiando – he absolutely loves them and has a huge portion after every meal. Yesterday, I didn’t feel like cooking – we had some left over chicken from the night before but I really fancied a herby Greek salad type meal with lots of chopped cucumber, feta and mint. So when Jake came bounding down the stairs and asked what was for dinner as he couldn’t smell anything (!), I replied “A chopped Greek salad” and waited for him to say “Oh great  – how long until we eat?!”  Instead he paused and then said – “Hey Mum, can we have a chicken Caesar salad instead? It’s my new favourite salad.” Well, how could I refuse?

I used to love Caesar Salads when I lived in Canada – crisp salad leaves, crunchy croutons, grainy parmesan cheese and a dreamy, creamy, pungent sauce – I was in! I was also butterfingers yesterday, managing to drop a fresh roll of paper towels into a sink full of dirty water, which really, really annoyed me! That was just before I knocked over a bottle of oil which dripped onto the smooth tiled kitchen floor, ensuring that I had to stop and have a huge clean up and wipe down. At that point, I didn’t like my chances of ending up Humpty-Dumpty-like, on that floor!

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Chicken Caesar Salad

I know that the dressing traditionally has a raw egg in it but decided that mayonnaise would be a good substitute as it is already egg and oil based and I have to say that I am quite pleased with the result as was Jake. Don’t miss out the anchovies – they add a deep umami flavour that cannot be replicated by salt alone. You could probably substitute with some fish sauce or anchovy paste – you will have to add a little at a time until you get the flavour you like. This makes quite a lot of dressing but it keeps very well and the recipe can easily be halved too.

From the comments below, a few of you have asked about substitutions;

  •  for mayo – I had a google and Jamie Oliver uses Greek yoghurt – it you try it, do come back and let me know and I will update the post with a credit to you and your blog.
  • vegetarian substitute for anchovies – I suggest tamari or soy sauce – start with one teaspoon and see if that adds enough umami – again, do come back and let me know and I will update the post.
  • vegetarian substitute for the chicken – try marinating firm tofu slices in smoky paprika, a little lemon juice and oil, then griddle or barbecue.

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Caesar Dressing

  • Servings: 300 ml
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise – don’t skimp on the quality here
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • juice of one lemon – about 50 ml or so – see my Tips and Tricks page on how to get the most juice out of a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 anchovies preserved in oil
  • freshly ground black pepper – about ½ tsp
  • 120ml/ ½ cup mild olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp oil from the anchovies – optional but good!
  • 35 g parmesan cheese grated

To serve (for 2 people)

  • 1 large slice of  sourdough or ciabatta bread cubed into croutons
  • a little olive oil
  • Half a romaine lettuce, washed and dried
  • 2 cooked  and sliced chicken breasts – barbecued or cooked on the griddle is the tastiest. Ours was room temperature.
  • grated parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, anchovies and black pepper in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz until smooth.
  2. With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil and the anchovy oil to emulsify the sauce. Add the oil slowly – this is the key to the dressing emulsifying and not splitting – the mustard really helps with this process in any case.
  3. Taste and adjust the flavour (not the salt though as the parmesan goes in next). More garlic? Add another crushed clove. If it’s too sharp from the lemon, add a little more oil but we found that the above measurements were perfect.
  4. Scrape into a bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese (or you could carry on blitzing in the food processor but I was using my really small one and didn’t have enough space!)
  5. Taste again and make any final adjustments to the flavour.

To serve

  1. Toss the bread cubes in a little olive oil and either cook them in a dry non-stick frying pan or toast in a hot oven for 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
  2. Tear up the romaine leaves into manageable pieces and place in a large bowl.
  3. Top with the chicken/tofu and croutons.
  4. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of the dressing and toss well to coat. Add more if you like more dressing on the salad.
  5. Scatter with some grated parmesan cheese, dish up and enjoy, hopefully alfresco with a large glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc!

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Walnut, Herb and Anchovy Sauce

Walnut-Herb-and-Anchovy-SauceI came across this recipe which originates from Puglia, in the early 90’s, in a copy of Elle Decoration – a magazine I adored. The issue is long gone but I have never forgotten how wonderful this sauce tasted.  I can remember feeling genuinely surprised that something so simple and uncooked could have such depth of flavour. Well, that will be the anchovies – when blended like this, there is no fishy odour or taste – just a deep, satisfying undertone to a bright and summery sauce.

Now, I haven’t tried this but I am pretty sure that you can substitute tamari sauce for the anchovies – this would make it vegan/vegetarian and keep it wheat free too. Tamari and Soya sauces are both made with fermented soybeans but soy sauce includes wheat and is saltier.

The recipe does require a lot of herbs but these can be bought so easily nowadays – in the supermarkets, in the green grocers and in the ethnic food shops too and they add so much flavour and colour to other dishes that you won’t regret it. Trim the stalks and keep them in a vase/tumbler of water and they will last quite a while.

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As daffodils and cherry blossom are coming into bloom, this bright, zingy sauce seems just the thing to herald the much anticipated Spring season. This Walnut, Herb and Anchovy Sauce would also be delicious slathered on fish or lamb.

29 May 2014 – I am really thrilled to say that this recipe is a Community Pick over on Food52 and that California Walnuts have asked to use it on their website!

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Walnut, Herb and Anchovy Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of toasted walnuts
  • 6 anchovies preserved in oil (or substitute Tamari sauce starting with 1 Tbsp and adjusting the flavour to your palate)
  • 100 g flat leaf parsley including the stems
  • 40 g basil leaves
  • 40 g mint leaves
  • 20 g tarragon leaves
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ¼ c water
  • lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Whiz the toasted nuts in food processor until coarsely chopped.
  2. Add the anchovies, herbs, garlic, shallot, water and pulse until it becomes a coarse puree.
  3. Then add the olive oil and whiz until combined.
  4. Stir in 1 Tbsp of lemon juice.
  5. Taste and adjust the flavour, stirring in additional lemon juice, salt and pepper to make the sauce sing.

Uses

  1. Toss into hot pasta, thinning with a little of the pasta water and finishing with a drizzle of good EVOO.
  2. Slash a whole fish and slather in the cavity and in the slashes; roast in the oven or cook on the barbecue.
  3. Top fish fillets or steaks with a spoonful of sauce and a dribble of wine; bake in parchment (thanks Tish!)
  4. Serve on the side with roast lamb or fish steaks.
  5. Spread baguette slices with a creamy goats cheese and top with a slice of roasted red pepper and little of the sauce; finish a drizzle of EVOO.

A Green Tapenade

IMG_4199I was a serious bookaholic from a very young age. On Saturdays, my mum would make the rounds of the butchers, the green grocers and the bakery in Westlands Shopping Centre leaving my little brother and me to squabble as we waited  fractiously in the car. We were always careful not to carry  on in front of her as she to and froed followed by shop assistants laden with bags for the boot because our reward for waiting patiently (hah!) was a visit to Lavington Green Shopping Centre. Mum would take my brother off to the sweet shop probably via the fishmongers as I browsed the wonderful books in the bookshop trying to decide which ones I should spend all my pocket money on. As I came to read more challenging books, I would usually have a dictionary by my side to look up words that I didn’t know and couldn’t make sense of. One day I realised that these definitions included a little note on the origin of the word – many hours were spent trawling through the dictionary and marvelling at where our words came from.

I have always been fascinated by provenance. What is the history behind things/people/ideas/languages/recipes? On a recent Bank Holiday Monday, I found myself sitting up at the bar in Polpo at lunch time in what can only be described as “continuing” birthday celebrations for my dear friend C which had started on the Thursday prior. Polpo model themselves on a Venetian “bàcaro” which literally translates as House of Bacchus – Bacchus being the Roman God of wine . A bàcaro is a small Venetian bar which serves local wines and little plates of cicchetti – tidbits of delicious food – predating the more well known Spanish custom of tapas by a few centuries. Polpo had run out of a couple of items on the menu (annoying) but had whipped up some replacements (laudable) one of which was an utterly delicious green olive tapenade crostini. As C and I discussed the ingredients in a tapenade, I found myself curious as to why something so intrinsically Provencal was being served somewhere which prides itself on its (utterly delicious) Venetian roots. Turns out that olive tapenades with anchovies can be found in ancient Roman cookbooks dating back to thousands of years before the appearance of the French word tapenade, or indeed the French language itself. The earliest known tapenade recipe, Olivarum conditurae, appears in Columella’s De re Rustica, written in the first century AD… So much lovely provenance in this story!

IMG_4196There are many recipes for tapenade but they all have the same basic ingredients – olives (usually black), capers, garlic, anchovies, lemon/vinegar and olive oil – in varying amounts. This is my take on it inspired by our visit to Polpo.

A Green Tapenade

  • Servings: just fills a 250g jar
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 200g green olives (pitted weight) or thereabouts
  • 3 cloves of skinned garlic confit or 1 fat clove of raw garlic chopped
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 to 2 anchovies
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp sundried tomato paste or red pesto
  • Olive oil
  • A squeeze or two of lemon

PREPARATION

  1. You can either finely chop the first five ingredients for a more rustic texture or blitz them in a food processor for a minute or two. Either way, then stir in the sun-dried tomato paste and drizzle in some olive oil.
  2. Taste.
  3. Give the mixture a squeeze of lemon and taste it again. Adjust the flavours to your liking bearing in mind that they mellow as time goes on. Salt shouldn’t be necessary as there is plenty in the olives, capers and anchovies.
  4. Store it in an scrupulously  clean jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. It should keep for at least a week in the fridge.

USES

  • Spread on grilled or toasted slices of ciabatta or baguette and enjoy with a glass of something suitable
  • Spread a couple of tablespoons under the skin of a chicken before roasting
  • Make a slit in the side of a thick fillet of cod/haddock and spread a little of the tapenade inside before cooking
  • Top a thinner fillet of fish with a smear of tapenade before cooking
  • Mix a couple of tablespoons into an oil and vinegar dressing and spoon over just boiled new potatoes

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