Mamma’s Caesar Salad saved us.

After a dramatic yet somehow boring week of earthquake tremors and wannabe Hurricane Irene (someone up there is not happy with us New Yorkers), the anchovies, capers and parmesan in Mamma’s very unconventional Caesar dressing saved us from snoozing over our afternoon game of Scrabble. (I don’t know about you, but all that salt just perks me up- that, and maybe a good cocktail shaken by my husband.)

Anyway, her dressing is more of a vinaigrette than one of those creamy affairs. I attribute this to Mamma’s distaste for any “newfangled” kitchen appliances like the Cuisinart.

“Why should I emulsify when I can just marinate?” I can hear her now…

But, in this case, she’s right. The anchovies, capers and garlic hang out in the oil all afternoon while you’re tending to more important matters like your baby or a business call. Then, come dinnertime, your e.v.o.o. is perfumed with all that unctuous goodness along with a little kick from the cayenne. You toast your homemade croutons in this same oil for a double-whammy of flavor.

I’ve loved this very different Caesar since I could pronounce anchovy (approximately age 2) and, believe me, you will too. This is your salad for dinner parties, family buffets and, of course, quiet weekends hiding away from the elements.

Thank you, Mamma, for this insanely good recipe!

Mamma’s Caesar Salad

  • 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated on Microplane zester (aka Jamie’s Magic Kitchen Wand)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons capers, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 day-old baguette, cubed for croutons
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 whole lemon, juiced

In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic, cayenne, sugar, anchovies, capers and a few twists of pepper. Allow to sit for at least 3 hours.

In a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, pour 3-4 tablespoons oil. Toast homemade croutons until golden. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to partially cool.

Remove outer, damaged romaine leaves. Chop or tear remaining leaves into bite-sized pieces; add to bowl. Pour juice of one lemon over leaves and toss to coat. Pour half of Caesar dressing over lettuce, sprinkle with half cup parmesan and toss. Taste and continue to add dressing and cheese to your taste. Finish with handfuls of homemade croutons.

Enjoy immediately.