Let's face it, everyone loves a good Caesar salad. I have made many versions in my catering and restaurant days, starting at the Gulf Coast Oyster Bar back in the 1980's and up until now at Wren Catering. I have made dressing from scratch with raw eggs and cheated too, just using good mayo as a starting point. But THE best Caesar dressing I have ever tasted is the one made by my daughter Lily. Its zing-y and delicious. She works the garlic and anchovies into a paste with finesse and purpose, making all the difference between great and AWESOME Caesar dressing. She has graciously let me share her recipe and technique with you and I so appreciate that...every wonderful bite!
Lily's Caesar Dressing
2 cloves garlic
1 oz anchovies from a tin or jar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Best Foods mayo
zest of one lemon
2 lemons, juiced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 cup finely shaved Parmesan cheese (I use my zester)
Put the mustard, mayo, lemon juice and zest in a bowl with a grind or two of black pepper and a generous pinch of sea salt. Finely chop the garlic then sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and smash it with the side of your knife against the cutting board until you have a paste. Chop and smash the anchovies the same way, then add to the bowl with the mustard, mayo, lemon juice and zest and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil in a slow stream until you get the texture you want, not too thin, you want it to stick to the romaine leaves well. Add in the cheese, stir. Check for flavor. Does it need more garlic? Lemon juice? Olive oil? You want it to have a balanced flavor with all ingredients detected. Drizzle on well washed and dried romaine leaves, more Parmesan and homemade croutons. Add chicken or cooked shrimp if you like. This dressing is also good as a crudité dip!
I never used to be much of a fresh apricot fan, but now I find them irresistible! Available in stores and Farmer's Markets for the next few months, these little darlings of summer are a sweet-tart, beautiful fruit with their happy, orange, sun kissed color. Use them in salads, wrap them in prosciutto or make them into salsa. High in antioxidants, iron and beta-carotene they are super good for you too!
1/2 lb of mixed baby greens, including arugula
1 5 oz chub of goat cheese
1/4 cup toasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 fresh apricots, cut in half and sliced
2 green onions, sliced thinly
Toss all ingredients with the vinaigrette and serve. Make sure the lettuce and the goat cheese are nice and cold, the cheese crumbles better when it’s cold. Serves 8.
2 t Dijon mustard
1/4 c Blenheim apricot balsamic vinegar (available at Marisolio in Murphys & on line)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
pinch of kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
Whisk the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together well. Slowly add in the olive oil, whisking to emulsify. This may make a bit more than you need but it’s great to have on hand for the next salad!
I was in Santa Barbara last week at the invitation of some of my Murphys friends who also live down there half of the time. I had never been to Santa Barbara before, no really. I LOVED it! Of course the ocean and beaches are beautiful, the sailboats, the mission and architecture...but the FOOD is over the top delicious. I had plenty of amazing eats, the pork tacos at Lilly's Taqueria downtown, the chicken meatball pizza from Honor Bar in Montecito, Huevos Rancheros at Delgados in Carpenteria and this wonderful nectarine salad at Garden Market, also in Carpenteria. I took notes as I was eating it and a picture for memory's sake and decided it would be a great blog post. I loved the yellow-orange of the fruit against the dark green of the kale, so pretty. Here is my rendition. Thanks Susie, Roxie, Pamela, Rob and Mikey for showing me a great time. Mu-wah!
Nectarine+ Kale Salad
2 nectarines, halved, pitted and sliced thinly
4 green onions, sliced thinly, crosswise
2 bunches of kale, stems removed (either cut them out or just hold onto the stem and pull the leaves off)
1/4 c shelled, toasted pistachios, chopped coarsely
1/2 feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
Mix the vinaigrette first and have ready. Coarsely chop the kale into 2" x 2" pieces.
toss with the vinaigrette and massage with your finger tips for a few minutes so that the dressing starts to break down the kale. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. This can hang out in your fridge for a couple of hours so it's a great side to take to a bbq.
2 T *Gravenstein apple-white balsamic vinegar
1 t honey
1 t dijon mustard
6 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon or lime
pinch of salt, grind of pepper
Mix together the vinegar, lemon or lime juice, honey and mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking to emulsify. Add salt and pepper.
* I get my vinegars at Marisolio here in Murphys. They ship!
I stopped in the valley to pick up strawberries last Tuesday, on my way home from the bay area. I always stop at the same place, a stand run by a family that farms the land just behind. Their strawberries are the best and you must eat them within days or make jam, that's how ripe they are. They grow a few other things too, and on this day they had beautiful fava beans! I always get excited when I first see favas, the season is short so you have to buy them and eat them when you can. They also had gorgeous asparagus and some snap peas, the kind you have to string (I am so spoiled with the packaged 'stringless' variety) but I didn't care, they were so fresh and vibrant! I have been wanting to make something with farro (an ancient grain) forever so I started to put together this salad. It just screams SPRING! It is easy, tasty and beautiful and it holds up well so it would be great for a picnic...maybe Mother's Day?
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 t chile flakes
1 1/2 c farro
2 t salt
6 c water
1 bay leaf
Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet that has a lid. Add the garlic and the chile flakes and cook for 3 minutes, the garlic will begin to brown slightly. Add the farro and begin to toast it, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add the water, salt and bay leaf, stir, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until done. It will still be chewy (don't cook until it pops or it will be mushy). Drain and spread out on a sheet pan to cool.
Fava Bean + Snap Pea + Asparagus + Toasted Farro Salad
2 c snap peas, *parred, cut in half
2 c asparagus, *parred, cut in 2" pieces
1 c **fava beans, *parred (about 2# in the pod)
2 T chives, chopped
4 T mint, ***chiffonade or chopped
3 T parsley, chopped coarsely
4 oz feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Toss with the cooled farro and the Meyer lemon vinaigrette.
*To par the veggies, heat a pot of water to a boil, add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute, using a strainer, scoop out and plunge in to an ice water bath. Next cook the asparagus in the same pot of water for about 2-3 minutes (depending on their size), scoop out and plunge into the ice water bath.
To cook the fava beans, see below.
Drain all well.
**to prepare the favas, just run your thumb down the slit in the pod, opening it up and releasing the inner beans (very zen). Drop them into boiling water for 2 minutes then scoop out and splash in to an ice water bath. When cooled, take the out and press the outer whit covering gently and the green inner beans should pop right out. They are now ready to use. It may seem like a bit of trouble but believe me it's worth it!
***to chiffonade the mint, pick the leaves off of the stem. Stack the leaves into a pile and roll them into a cigar shape, slice thinly across to get a fluffy pile of mint.
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
zest and juice of one Meyer lemon (if using regular lemon, add 1/2 t sugar)
1 T red wine vinegar
3/4 c good olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
Zest and juice the lemon. Mix in the vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil a little at a time to emulsify. Pour over salad and toss.
Cara Cara oranges are a wonderful surprise! They look exactly like regular navel oranges but cut them open and you are transported to a tropical vacation of glorious pink yumminess. I love them paired with roasted yellow beets, baby spinach, avocados and fennel for a refreshingly beautiful winter salad. Diet friendly too!
Cara Cara orange + roasted yellow beet salad
2 Cara Cara oranges (regular navel oranges or ruby red grapefruit work too) ends cut off, peeled and *supremed
1 avocado, cut into quarters, peeled and chunked
1 fennel bulb, top stalks cut off, sliced very thinly with a mandoline or sharp knife
8 cups baby spinach
4 small golden beets, **roasted, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 c toasted and salted sunflower seeds (optional)
Toss the spinach leaves in the vinaigrette and place on individual salad plates. Gently toss the orange segments, fennel and beets together witha little of the vinaigrette and top the spinach. Place the avocado chunks on top, drizzle with a bit more dressing and top with the sunflower seeds, if using. Alternately, toss all ingredients together with the vinaigrette, top with sunflower seeds. Serves 6-8.
1 t dijon mustard
1 t honey
2 T white wine vinegar (I just found out that Marisolio a wonderful olive oil and vinegar store, here in Murphys, has a Cara Cara Orange-Vanilla white balsamic vinegar. It would be an excellent choice for this dressing! Wow, thanks for letting me know Aubrey!)
2 T juice from prepping the oranges (squeeze the membranes for their juice)
3 T extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt + pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the first 4 ingredients. Gradually add the oil, whisking to emulsify. Salt and pepper to taste.
*Supreming is a technique that removes the membrane from citrus fruit so it can be served in slices. To supreme an orange or grapefruit, begin by trimming off the very top and bottom of the fruit with a sharp knife. Next, set the fruit on end, and carefully cut the skin from its flesh, beginning at the top and following the curves down. Then, carefully cut out each section of the fruit by inserting the blade of the knife between the flesh and the membrane on both sides. The wedges should come out easily, leaving only the membrane intact.
**Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the beets, whole, on a large piece of tin foil. Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap beets tightly in foil and place on a sheet pan or small baking dish. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 to 60 minutes, depending on size. When cool enough to handle, rub with a paper towel to remove skins.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"