I sometimes top each portion with some grilled, broiled, or sauteed shrimp, fish fillet, chicken breast, or even sliced steak, lamb, or pork. Credit: Fotolia.com.
By Wolfgang Puck
Tribune Media Services
Last week, I talked about how many of us find ourselves in need of good, satisfying meals to cook at home during the lull between holiday parties. But there's another kind of meal many home cooks need at this time of year: a change of pace from all those filling, multi-course seasonal menus.
After all, just how many roasts and casseroles can one person actually cook or eat in a single month?
That's why I want to suggest taking a break to prepare something light and easy during the festive season. How about having a salad for dinner at least one night this month?
All sorts of salads feel perfectly in season as autumn turns to winter. Consider kale, for example, the leaves stripped from their ribs, torn into bite-sized pieces, and tossed with a warm dressing of olive oil, vinegar, and crispy bacon pieces. Or how about a classic Waldorf-style salad of chopped apples and celery, tossed with lemony mayonnaise and some toasted walnuts? Salads of bitter greens like radicchio, endive, and arugula, with crumbled goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries or cherries, and a light balsamic vinegar dressing are perfectly seasonal, too.
And what better salad for dinner could there be during the festive season than the classic Caesar? With its bite-sized pieces of ruffled pale-green-and-white romaine lettuce, crunchy brown croutons, pungent and zesty dressing, and snow-like dusting of freshly grated Parmesan, it looks like a celebration in a bowl. The textures and flavors are especially satisfying, making a generous portion of Caesar salad an ideal light, yet satisfying main course. And that's especially so if you decide, as I sometimes do, to top each portion of the salad with some grilled, broiled, or sauteed shrimp, fish fillet (such as salmon), chicken breast, or even sliced steak, lamb, or pork. (You could also add these proteins, if you like, to the other types of cold-weather salads mentioned above.)
Let me add one important note here about Caesar salad. Especially considering today's heightened awareness of legitimate concerns about food safety, any recipe including raw or partially cooked eggs calls for caution over the slight risk of food-borne illnesses, especially salmonella. You can reduce this risk by using the freshest, cleanest, refrigerator-stored grade-A or grade-AA eggs you can buy, checking to make sure their shells are intact. When separating the eggs, take great care that the yolks or whites do not come into contact with the exterior of the shells.
To go with my Caesar salad, I'm also including a recipe for Garlic-Herb Bread. These recipes can also double as highlights of a holiday entertaining dinner or buffet!
WOLFGANG'S CAESAR SALAD
Serves 6 as a main course
2 large grade-A or grade-AA cage-free egg yolks
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 anchovy fillets, mashed with a fork
1-3/4 cups vegetable oil
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
2 large heads organic romaine lettuce, thoroughly rinsed and dried, leaves torn into 1-to-2-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups Garlic Croutons (recipe follows)
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper flakes, and mashed anchovies. While whisking continuously, slowly pour in the oils in a thin, steady stream until a thick, creamy emulsion forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, reserving a few spoonfuls for garnishing. Drizzle with just enough of the dressing to coat the leaves, reserving the rest to pass at the table. Toss well. With salad tongs, transfer to individual large serving plates or shallow pasta bowls. Garnish with some of the croutons, passing more at the table. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 to 6 cups
1 loaf sourdough bread, crusts trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. While tossing the cubes by hand, drizzle with the olive oil until they are lightly, evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper, tossing again.
Spread the cubes evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes.
WOLFGANG'S GARLIC-HERB BREAD
Serves 6 to 8
10 to 15 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, leaves coarsely chopped
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 long loaf Italian bread
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
In a blender, combine the garlic, basil, sage, rosemary, pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Blend until pureed. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
With a bread knife, cut the loaf crosswise into slices 1/2 inch thick. Place them on a baking sheet. Brush with the garlic-herb mixture. If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella. Bake on the upper rack of the oven until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.
(c) 2011 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
This was printed in the December 18, 2011 - December 31, 2011 Edition