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September 1, 2012

Ortiz Anchovies and the Caesar Salad

by Anne Paddock

I wouldn’t hesitate to order a Caesar Salad in a restaurant and yet, for years I was reluctant to make a real Caesar Salad at home because of the raw egg yolks and anchovies – neither of which appeal to me on their own.  However, it is possible to make a really good Caesar Salad without raw egg yolks but not without anchovies, freshly grated parmesan cheese, homemade croutons, and crisp romaine lettuce.

Anchovies are very popular in Spain and yet I never could put one of those slimy little fish fillets down my throat – not because they didn’t taste good but because of the way they looked and felt. Then, a Spanish friend told me about pulverizing the little fillets into a paste and adding the paste to a salad dressing which gave me a whole new appreciation for what anchovies can do for a Caesar Salad. But (there is a caveat), the anchovies have to be of an excellent quality because there really is a difference between a cheap tin of anchovies and high quality anchovies packed in olive oil.

388236_320260064670313_558915919_nOrtiz, the century old Spanish company based in northwestern Spain, catches and sells high quality anchovies. During the fishing season, anchovies are caught using traditional methods and sorted by size before having their heads removed. Placed in salt, pressed and left to mature in barrels for at least six months, Ortiz anchovies are hand-filleted and packed in olive oil.

Known for their intense flavor and smooth texture, the Ortiz anchovy is perfect for Casear Salads. Available at Whole Foods or Fresh Market, the 3.3 ounce jar sells for approximately $10. Because each jar contains enough anchovies for many batches of salad dressing, I store a few of the leftover anchovies in the refrigerator for later in the week but roll the remaining anchovies into coils and freeze individually on a plate before placing in small zipper lock bags to store in the freezer (tip courtesy of Cooks Illustrated) until needed.

My Caesar Salad recipe is a variation from Cooks Illustrated, with more lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil and lighter on the garlic. I also use buttermilk powder because I don’t always have real buttermilk on hand. And finally, I make my own croutons using butter and parmesan cheese.

Caesar Salad Dressing
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 Ortiz anchovy fillets, mashed
1 tablespoon smooth dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 clove of elephant garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil (I use Columela extra virgin olive oil)

In a food processor, blend all the ingredients except the olive oil. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until blended. Set aside.

Parmesan Croutons
3 pieces of bread (I use the bread from my bread machine) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons of Breakstone Whipped Butter (salted)
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a large non-stick pan over low heat. Add the cubes and stir to coat with a wooden spoon. Toss the freshly grated parmesan cheese over the croutons and stir to blend. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, tossing every few minutes to ensure all sides of the cubes brown (very lightly)  evenly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Caesar Salad
1/2 clove of elephant garlic
1 head of Romaine Lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
Caesar Salad Dressing (recipe above)
1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Homemade croutons (recipe above)

  • Using a large wooden bowl, rub the bottom and sides with the other half of the elephant garlic clove and then discard.
  • Add the romaine lettuce pieces to the wooden bowl.
  • Gently pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over the leaves and toss to lightly coat.
  • Pour the freshly grated parmesan cheese over the salad and toss to distribute.
  • Toss the croutons into the salad bowl and toss.
  • Serve immediately; pass the dressing (for those that want a heavier coating).

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