I realize that the internet needs another recipe for caesar salad as much as it probably needs another new spin on chocolate chip cookies (guilty as charged, of course). Thus, it was nowhere on my agenda to suggest one. Plus, I’ve told you before that the only caesar dressing I need in my life is my hopelessly, unapologetically inauthentic one — no raw yolks, no tinned fish, and keeps in the fridge for a month, easily — which I’ve shared in some form over here and in Smitten Kitchen Every Day (in a salad with broken eggs and crushed croutons that you need in your life, trust me).
But earlier this year I was invited to be on Cherry Bombe Radio, which records at the Heritage Radio Studios, which broadcasts from two recycled shipping containers behind the Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick, at the edge of the garden where many of Roberta’s ingredients are grown. My son was home from school that day and I do not know what the 9 year-olds in your life are like, but if I told the one I’ve been assigned that I was going to be hanging out somewhere eating legendarily delicious pizza and not invite him along, he’d (rightly) declare it excessive cruelty. So he came along and along with pizza, ordered the very caesar-y romaine salad with candied walnuts and he declared it the best salad he’d ever eaten and begged me to make it at home. Again, I don’t know what the grade-schoolers in your life are like but I consider it a general rule that if a kid requests salad, they get it.
Also: it’s a really fantastic salad, which means I hope we can find room on this site for one more caesar salad. This one is epic. Maybe it’s not what you make on a Monday night, maybe it’s not the one you make for people worried about egg yolks and salty brined fish, but now that those people are out of the room, you’re going to be glad you don’t have to share.
This, to me, is the definition of an updated classic, wherein a few tweaks makes what we’re used to even better. Tweak 1: Roasted garlic, which is creamy and delightful here. Tweak 2: Spicy candied walnuts (but you can use whatever nut you like here; Team Walnut is a lonely place, sigh) instead of the usual heaviness — or at least disappointment — of croutons. The flavor profile is different, of course, but they have such a great contrast here, plus, they’re pure Reluctant Preschooler bait. Tweak 3: Pecorino — saltier, funkier — instead of parmesan. Tweak 4: A little more subtle, but not all classic caesar salads have vinegar but this one uses a little white wine vinegar and a little sherry vinegar for extra gravitas. It harmonizes well with the roasted garlic.
It makes a lot of dressing, but we used every drop of it over the next week, when we made this salad again and again. Make it for yourself as weekend treat, or make it mid-next week and stash it in the fridge for a really great Thanksgiving salad. The salad may look austere, but nothing breaks up the heaviness of casseroles and gratins and stuffing and gravy like a crispy, green, and complex salad.
One year ago: Endive Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Walnuts
Two years ago: Roasted Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds, Brown Butter, and Lime and Apple Strudel
Three years ago: Oven Fries and Chocolate Peanut and Pretzel Brittle
Four years ago: Squahs Toasts with Ricotta and Cider Vinegar and Smoked Whitefish Dip with Horseradish
Five years ago: Spinach and Egg Pizzettes
Six years ago: Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
Seven years ago: Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings
Eight years ago: Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese, Buckeyes and Upside-Down Cranberry Cake
Nine years ago: Silky, Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse, Baked Chicken Meatballs and Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
Ten years ago: Cabbage and Mushroom Galette and Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Eleven years ago: Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples
[New!] Twelve years ago: Salt Cross Buns
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Chilaquiles Brunch Casserole and Ruffled Milk Pie
1.5 Years Ago: A Really Great Pot of Chickpeas
2.5 Years Ago: Palm Springs Date Shake + Monkey Flip
3.5 Years Ago: Potato Scallion and Kale Cakes and Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
4.5 Years Ago: Blue Sky Bran Muffins and Fresh Spinach Pasta
Roberta's Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad
New note, November 2019: If you’re in one of the many areas with romaine recalls right now, don’t sleep on this salad. My favorite alternatives are red and green leaf lettuces, butter/Bibb/Boston, and chicories (endive, Belgian endive, and the gorgeous castelfranco), or a mix of any of the above. As always, the dressing here is the star.
- 1 head of garlic
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (175 grams) olive oil, plus a splash for the garlic
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) smooth dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (21 grams) white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) sherry vinegar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 5 anchovy fillets
- Juice of half a lemon, plus more if needed
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups (180 grams) walnut halves
- 2 large egg whites
- 3 packed tablespoons (30 grams) dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (75 grams) honey
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
- 2 romaine hearts, ends trimmed, leaves separated
- 1/3 cup roasted garlic dressing (above)
- 2 ounces pecorino romano cheese
- A handful of candied walnuts (above)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Roasted garlic dressing
To make the roasted garlic dressing: Heat your oven to 350°F. Cut a quarter inch off the head of garlic and place the head, cut side up, on a big square of aluminum foil. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Wrap it tightly in the foil and bake for a little less than 1 hour.
Remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool in the foil. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of 4 or 5 cloves and set the rest aside for another use (“its really good just spread on grilled bread,” the book tells us). Leave the oven on for the walnuts.
Put the roasted garlic, the raw clove of garlic, mustard, vinegars, egg yolks, anchovies, and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and blend for 30 seconds or until combined. With the machine one, add the olive oil in a slow, thin stream until it’s incorporated and the dressing looks smooth. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice as desired.
Meanwhile, make the walnuts: Put the nuts on a baking sheet and toast 8 minutes, turing your baking sheet and tossing the nuts around halfway through.Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Turn the oven down to 275°F. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and (do what I didn’t do), coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they begin to have body but not until they form soft peaks. Add the brown sugar, honey, and about 10 turns of a pepper grinder’s worth of black pepper to the whites, and combine. Add the walnuts to the mixture and mix until they’re all well coated. Spread them on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle them evenly with the salt. Bake for about 24 minutes, turning the baking sheet about halfway through. The nuts should be dry and not sticky. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.
To assemble: Place the romaine leaves in a large bowl. Pour about 1/4 cup roasted garlic dressing over the leaves, using your fingers to toss and coat the leaves evenly. (The book warns that tongs will damage the leaves here, and won’t distribute the dressing as easily.) Use the remaining tablespoon or so if needed, to taste (Romaine hearts vary a lot in size).
Divide the lettuce between two plates. Grate the Pecorino over each plate. Scatter the walnuts over the two plates and give each a grind of black pepper. Eat with a knife and fork, blissfully.