The only way to have a true Caesar salad is to make one yourself. Most restaurants nowadays use Caesar “dressings,” which bear little relation to the purity of garlicky olive oil, lemon juice, eggs and Parmesan cheese—items in the original Caesar salad. Which brings up another issue—how does one know what the original Caesar salad really was?
In the early 1970s while I was watching Julia Child, she made what she claimed to be Caesar Cardini’s original salad. How did she know it was THE Caesar salad? His daughter, Rosa, born just five years after the salad had been created, had watched her father make it many times. Julia got the scoop straight from her, and who could doubt the word of Caesar’s daughter?
Many myths surround the creation of the Caesar salad, but one central truth remains: Chef Caesar Cardini, of Tijuana, Mexico, used only the tender inner leaves of Romaine for his salad. These 4- and 7-inch-long pale green scoops were left intact and became ideal receptacles for Caesar’s iconic dressing and croutons. Caesar, who created this salad in 1924, never mixed the dressing ahead of time. Nothing was measured, so the salad took on the qualities of a spontaneous work of art. Beginning with the finest quality extra-virgin olive oil and garlic to create a marvelous garlicky aroma and flavor, Caesar made croutons from Italian or French bread, mixed them with some of the oil, and toasted them in the oven. Coddled eggs, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese rounded out his ingredients. At the last moment, he sprinkled on a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. No anchovies, you ask? Caesar never added anchovies to the salad—only Worcestershire sauce, which contains a small amount of those salty little fish.
By Greg Patent, a food writer in Missoula, Mont.