5 simple variations on the traditional Caesar salad
Salad is salad, which can mean pretty much anything that entails a mix of raw vegetables. Sometimes, a “salad” might not even have vegetables in it, such as a macaroni salad.
Give a salad a name, and suddenly it becomes an institution. Even subtle alterations to the original recipe can be hotly debated. So we come to such well-known recipes as the Waldorf salad and the Caesar’s salad.
On the face of it, Caesar’s salad is the most simple salad there could be. It’s just lettuce. Sure, there are some toppings added in most households, such as croutons, sauce parmesan cheese, seasoning and bacon, but lettuce is the only vegetable.
There is an easy recipe for a classic Caesar salad on the Sargento Cheese website. Bacon is not among the ingredient, but you won’t be shot for adding that ingredient. Did you know that bacon is not technically even part of the original Caesar salad recipe, supposedly first served in San Diego. Here is the recipe as listed on Wikipedia:
“A Caesar salad is a salad of romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and black pepper.”
Feel free to debate the subtle differences between your Caesar salad, the Sargento recipe and what Wikipedia proclaims to be true. In the meantime, let’s see how we can get really creative with Caesar salad, without spending too much time or having to undergo intense training to become mater chefs. In other words, let’s just pick up a bottle of Caesar salad dressing from the store, tear up some romaine lettuce, and see what happens.
The most common variation of Caesar salad I have seen in the “Chicken Caesar”. There is an irony, since all the Caesars fancied themselves to be anything but chicken. However, cuisine is more important than history here, and Chicken Caesar is delicious. You can chop up pieces of chicken into a classic Caesar salad, or you can take breaded chicken fingers or nuggets and chop those into the salad. That’s it. A pretty simple variation on any of the classic Caesar salads.
I find that I can make a “real salad” out of a Caesar salad fairly easily. The trick to do this while still having a “Caesar salad” is to pick the right vegetables and to make sure that the romaine lettuce is at least two thirds of the volume of the salad. Finely grated carrots are good, thin, thin slices of yellow or purple onions works well, in small quantity. Plain white mushrooms are good, too.
A third variation is a shrimp Caesar salad. There are three things different about this variation. The shrimp is the obvious difference. The added lemon, for a tangy taste is a second difference. And going extremely light on traditional dressing (in order for the lemon to shine through) is a third difference.
How about a chunky Caesar salad? Instead of tearing up the romaine leaves, simply remove most of them from the romaine heart, leaving just those leaves that are five inches or shorter. You can slice them in half lengthwise and grill them. Instead of croutons, get some crusty bread and slice into spears. Toast or grill these, too. Now add the usual toppings – dressing, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper – whatever you would normally add. This makes a nice fancy salad to serve guests, without any added ingredients or special culinary skill. There is a version of the recipe here.
You might also like to try a lime and fish Caesar salad. This variation is similar to the shrimp one above, with the same three differences from more traditional recipes. In this case, almost any reasonably mild fish will do, but preferably one that tends to crumble rather than squish. Salmon would work, too. Use lime instead of lemon – people don’t cook enough with lime, you know. And, once again, go light on the dressing so that the lime can shine.
I hope you enjoy trying our new variations of Caesar salads. There is nothing like combining a favorite stand-by with a little creativity to discover new tastes.
Sargento covered the costs of the ingredients used in this recipe, but the opinions are my own.
Paul Raines has been tinkering with recipes since his late teens. For him, food is more than just something to eat; it is an art form that must evolve. Aside from food, Paul enjoys the theatre and runs 5 miles a day to stay in shape.