What is an Italian vegetable side dish without a classic Caesar salad? This simple salad of ahi tuna, croutons, and dressing has become a staple in Italian-American dining. The Caesar salad has its roots in the United States, where its creator was a major influence. It was a young U.S. Air Force officer named Caesar Cardini who first created the Caesar salad. In the early 1950s, he was stationed in Europe. There, he met and befriended local chefs from regional cuisines, including the French and Italian. Wherever they traveled, Cardini and his friends brought back the regional tastes they encountered. When Cardini was stationed in Italy, he was introduced to the Italian classic of salads made with a simple vinaigrette dressing. The combination of crispy Romaine lettuce, olive oil, anchovies, Parmesan cheese, and garlic was a hit with his American friends. Cardini introduced the salad back home to his Air Force buddies. The rest is history.
The Original Caesar Salad
When you think of the Caesar salad, you probably think about a classic combination of Romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, croutons, and Caesar salad dressing. But the salad's origin is actually in Italy. The original Caesar salad was developed by chef Caesar Cardini at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Cardini had been stationed in Europe with the U.S. Air Force during the 1950s. While in France, he was introduced to the Italian classic of salads made with a simple vinaigrette dressing. When he returned to the United States and was stationed at the Waldorf Astoria, he brought the idea back to the table. Soon after, the Caesar salad was a hit, appearing on the first version of the Waldorf Astoria's menu in 1957 in New York City.
Caesar Salad Romaine or Iceberg?
Both romaine and green leaf lettuces are used to make the classic Caesar salad. However, traditional Caesar salad recipes are almost exclusively made with the romaine variety, so most people call the salad “Caesar” when made with romaine lettuce. There is a large difference, however, in how the two types of lettuce are grown and harvested. Romaine lettuce is a type of leafy green that is grown throughout the central Mediterranean region and is only available for a short season from May to October. Romaine lettuce’s short season makes it a seasonal crop and much of the year it is unavailable for harvest, it can be grown anywhere in the world.
How to Make the Dressing for a Caesar Salad
When making a Caesar salad, it is common to start with a vinaigrette-based salad dressing. The classic Caesar salad dressing is made with olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. The olive oil is the primary flavor in this salad, so it’s important that the dressing has a balance of other ingredients. While flaked or granulated garlic are optional in Caesar salad dressings, they are essential to the Caesar salad’s signature flavor. While garlic is commonly used in Italian cuisine, in the United States it is often used as a seasoning rather than in the formation of a full-flavored paste.
How to Make the Perfect Caesar Salad
There are many different aspects to a perfectly made Caesar salad. The most important of these aspects, in the eyes of Caesar salad enthusiasts, are the lettuce and the dressing.
- Prepare the Lettuce: The first step in making the perfect Caesar salad is to make the lettuce. The best lettuce for making a Caesar salad is romaine lettuce because of its crispness and its availability throughout the summer months. Other varieties of lettuce like butterhead, iceberg, or Chinese cabbage make great Caesar salads, but they aren’t as widely available throughout the year.
-Make the Layers of Croutons: The next step in making a perfect Caesar salad is to make the croutons.
- Make the Dressing: There are many different ways to make the dressing for a Caesar salad. You can make your own Caesar dressing or use a store bought Caesar dressing.
A variation on the classic Caesar salad is Caesar nardini. The salad is almost identical to the classic Caesar salad except for the addition of anchovies in the dressing. Many people find that the saltiness of the anchovies balances out the sweetness in the lemon juice in the classic Caesar salad dressing, making nardini a perfect alternative to the classic.
Caesar Cardini's grandson, Caesar Nardini, is the one the one who created the Caesar nardini in 1987. At its heart, the nardini Caesar salad is the same as the classic. It just replaces the traditional Caesar salad dressing with Caesar nardini dressing. The Caesar nardini dressing is a mixture of mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and anchovies. It is a great twist on the classic Caesar salad and is usually what we recieve today in our favorite eateries.
When you think of Italian American food, you probably think of pasta, pizza, and meatballs. While these classic Italian dishes are delicious, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of the classic Caesar salad. This side salad is a must have for every Italian-American meal.