10 June 2011

Do You Eat Caesar Salad with Your Hands?

"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.
In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude."
~ Julia Child

I first of all want to thank you for your patience while my IT friend rid me of the nastiest computer virus yet. I think I will recommend him for Sainthood. A writer without Internet or access to their blog for a few days is like being a chef without any ingredients. I literally felt like someone had strangled my voice and hid my keyboard in a black hole. I know I am being over dramatic. I don't know if it is possible to catch up on all your wonderful posts, but I will do my best. I am more than happy to say..she's back......

There’s something so wonderful about cooking from a recipe. By following the directions, ingredient for ingredient, you are channeling the culinary spirit of the chef that created the dish. When the dish is complete and you sample the flavours, you are able to sit back and take an objective view. You can marvel at the genius that married those singular flavours together but by cooking dishes created by the masters, you begin to understand the inspirations of a chef from the inside out. The recipe is a starting point and a guideline since from there you are on your own and limited only by your imagination!

And so to honour the masters Gourmet Live brought out a list of the 50 most influential women in food...Fifty women game changers. Some are chefs, some are food writers, and some are women who are passionate about the creative process. You could certainly add or detract women from this list since it is one persons opinion, and biased from an American point of view, but no matter what these women have all influenced us in one way or another. Being a woman and passionate about food myself I wanted to explore and not only learn from the masters but recreate some of their dishes to better understand what has shaped and molded them into who they are today.

One of my favourite well-travelled bloggers Mary of One Perfect Bite invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey. For the next 50 weeks we will experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list". I have already come up with some who do not have recipes but they deserve their moment in the sun too. Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty it will be an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters. My cohorts for this adventure so far will be Joanne of Eats Well with Others and Claudia of A Seasonal Cook in Turkey. If you would like to join in  please contact Mary. This is an informal event and you have the flexibility to follow along when you can. She will be posting every Friday.

The first woman on the list needs absolutely no introduction. Ever since the film Julie and Julia came out last year, it seems Julia Child is on everyones radar, foodies and non-foodies alike. The fact that Julia started her passion for food and cooking so late in life makes us "kindred spirits" although, like me, I am sure she had a passion for food from the very beginning, she just didn't know it. She is so inspiring to me because of her outlook on life and her unending joy for her chosen path. I’m happy to say her wonderful recipes and independent spirit are still alive!!!! When I was in Washington DC a few weekends ago I would have loved to spend time in her kitchen at the Smithsonian but sadly there are only so many hours in a day aren't there?

We are all blessed to be among those who owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Julia Child for her tireless guidance, enlightenment, inspiration, and encouragement through the decades. She set a tremendous example for us, not only with her culinary expertise, but also with her marvelous sense of humor, and her indomitable grace and aplomb in sticky situations and live television.  Her work speaks for itself!!!  Bloopers such as “First you take a leek…” would perhaps have destroyed the career of those less self-assured than our Julia. Long may she reign as the number one most influential woman in food, in my humble opinion.


At the time when she created this recipe for her cookbook she was probably one of the few people around who had witnessed the real Caesar Cardini making his salad. She was about 9 years old when her parents took her to his restaurant in Tijuana, just the other side of the border from San Diego. As excerpted from her book, when Caesar Cardini first served his famous salad in the early 1920s, he used just the hearts of the romaine lettuce, the tender short leaves in the center, and he presented them whole exactly like this recipe from Julia Child. The salad was tossed and dressed, then arranged on each plate so that you could get your hands into it and pick up each leaf by its short end and savour every bite. Many customers didn't like to get their fingers covered with egg-and-cheese-and-garlic dressing, so he changed to the conventional torn leaf type of salad. Too bad, since the salad lost much of its individuality and drama. I decided to resurrect the original Caesar salad from Caesar's at home...  providing my guests with plenty of big paper napkins. I love to eat with my hands!!! It's so primal!!!You can read Julia's full account from her book Julia Childs Kitchen here. 

What have our other kindred spirits been up to?

Mary - Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence
Joanne - Pain Brioche
Claudia - Navarin Printanier
Heather of Girlichef - Hollandaise

Who has influenced you the most throughout the years and inspired your love for cooking?


**Julia Child's Caesar Salad**
  • 18 to 24 crisp, narrow leaves from the hearts of 2 heads of romaine lettuce, or a package of romaine hearts (about 1 pound)
  • ½ baguette, cut into cubes
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup or more excellent olive oil
  • – salt
  • 1 large egg
  • – freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole lemon, halved and seeded
  • 3 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano only
You will probably need 2 large heads of romaine for 3 people — or use a commercially prepared package of “romaine hearts,” if they appear fresh and fine. From a large head remove the outside leaves until you get down to the cone where the leaves are 4 to 7 inches in length — you’ll want 6 to 8 of these leaves per serving. Separate the leaves and wash them carefully to keep them whole, roll them loosely in clean towels, and keep refrigerated until serving time. (Save the remains for other salads — fortunately, romaine keeps reasonably well under refrigeration.

 To flavour the croutons, crush the garlic clove with the flat of a chef’s knife, sprinkle on ¼ teaspoon of salt, and mince well. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil on the garlic and mash again with the knife, rubbing and pressing to make a soft purée.

 Scrape the purée into the frying pan, add another tablespoon of oil, and warm over low-medium heat. Add the croutons and toss for a minute or two to infuse them with the garlic oil, then remove from the heat. (For a milder garlic flavour, you can strain the purée though a small sieve into a pan before adding the extra croutons. Discard the bits of garlic.)

To coddle the egg, bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer. Pierce the large end of the egg with a pushpin to prevent cracking, then simmer for exactly 1 minute.

Mixing and serving the Caesar: Dress the salad just before serving. Have ready all the dressing ingredients and a salad fork and spoon for tossing.

 Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the romaine leaves and toss to coat, lifting the leaves from the bottom and turning them towards you, so they tumble over like a wave. Sprinkle them with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, toss once or twice, then add the lemon juice and several drops of the Worcestershire, and toss again. Taste for seasoning, and add more, if needed.

 Crack the egg and drop it right on the romaine leaves, then toss to break it up and coat the leaves. Sprinkle on the cheese, toss briefly, then add the croutons (and the garlicky bits in the pan, if you wish) and toss for the last time, just to mix them into the salad.

 Arrange 6 or more leaves in a single layer on individual plates, scatter the croutons all around, and serve.

Serves 2 - 3

 You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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23 comments:

  1. Oh! :-) I just love the idea of eating Caesar salad with one's hands! :-) Such a freeing idea! Thank you for sharing this beautiful post and this incredible blog event... I'm so grateful to you for bringing the spirit of Julia into my living room this very morning when my spirits needed a bit of lifting... You wrote so touchingly and with such life - I am truly rejuvenated, and eager to fix Julia's Ceasar salad recipe this weekend! Thank you so much! *hugs* :-)

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  2. Wonderful post, Val. It's no wonder that Julie is loved by so many. I'm on my way over to Mary's right now to find out more about this fun event.

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  3. This is a beautifully done post! I loved reading about the history of the salad and your commentary on Julia Child. She is a national treasure, to be sure! I am excited to try to participate in this challenge! As for the salad, it is my favorite quick meal ... made on evenings when I don't really want to fuss too much in the kitchen ... so basic and so good!

    PS So glad your computer problems have been solved!

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  4. I love the idea of picking up big pieces of lettuce for a Caesar salad! It looks great on a platter that way too. One of the biggest influences on my cooking has been Martha Stewart. I started watching her shows, reading her magazine and books right at the time I was first really learning.

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  5. Good to know that you got rid of that nasty virus!

    I have never eaten a Caesar Salad with my hands, but I'd have no problem doing so. ;-P Your salad looks marvelous.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  6. Wonderful post! I love Caesar salad and had one every day on my honeymoon through Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria- it's become a legend. ;)
    I'd love to come along on this journey with you to explore the contributions of such influential women.
    xox

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  7. I see nothing wrong with eating this delicous salad with clean hands!

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  8. I m glad you are better of your "virus".
    I love Caesar Salad an look amazing!! gloria

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  9. You have my mouth watering Val. I will have to try Caesar's this way.

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  10. Wow! I can't believe Julia really met the creator of the Caesar! Cool stuff.

    I love that you can eat this with your hands!

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  11. I have had SO many arguments with my father in law about the origin of the Caesar salad. He refuses to believe it was created in Mexico because he's a European food snob and refuses to eat Mexican food.

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  12. So glad your computer is better! This is a lovely tribute to Julia and her recipe for Caesar salad. I've never had it with the whole leaves, but I'll definitely make it this way the next time I do. :)

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  13. I'm so glad you're back, Val! How frustrating that must've been for you. :-( I've been inspired by the chaps who wrote Once Upon A Tart. :-) They're so delightful and unpretentious and mess around with their own recipes so it gives me freedom to do it too. :-)

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  14. Hi Val! I'm so glad you managed to get the old computer back on the road -I know exactly how you felt. And your post is lovely - I didn't even know that this salad is named after a real Caesar!!

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  15. Glad to hear your computer is all better and you can get back to doing what you do so well! I love any and all food you can eat with your hands! And I learned something new today, I never knew the origin of the Caesar salad either. Have a great weekend Val!

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  16. I've never thought of eating a Caeser by hand, but why not try! I am SO glad that you're back from your frustrating computer experience. We have become so dependent on them that it's scary!

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  17. First, that's great news that your computer got fixed. I love to eat lamb chops with my hands. That also goes for ribs. Why not salad? I never knew the origins of Caesar Salad. Come to think of it, I've never made it. Ever. I must change that! What a fun endeavor you've jumped on with a few of my favorite bloggers! 50 weeks! Wow!

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  18. Glad to see you're back Val! I think eating this divine caesar salad with your hands totally rocks! Thank you for sharing this delightful treat with us!

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  19. I love Caesar salad but never thought of digging in with my hands or leaving the leaves whole. This would be a wonderful summer salad to eat outdoors!

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  20. Val...I know how you felt...was there too...remember

    I once did a Caesar serving the leaves and the dressing in a bowl for dipping....was really cool

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  21. Interesting read and perspective...I really enjoyed your take on the virtues of cooking from an established chef's recipe. Something to think about for me.

    P.S. No, I prefer a fork and knife.
    PPS. Sorry about your virus...glad you're back up.

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  22. How interesting - I never knew that, despite being an avid fan of Caesar salad!

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  23. Very nice read, like a lot, My grandmother had a strong influence on my love to cook and eat with natural ingredients , if possible fresh from the farm

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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