Friday, 21 March 2014

“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Butarga more.”

The first day of spring,the sun shines and its time to talk salad

What is the deal with Caesar salad?? I’ve ordered it in many different places from neighborhood cafes and beach bars to stylish city lunch spots. If there’s no dish on a restaurant’s menu that coaxes me instantly. and the particular establishment happens to offer Caesar salad – mission accomplished. That, however, doesn’t automatically mean that all of my Caesar salad endeavours have been pleasurable ones. Quite the contrary, in fact I’ve had really bad ones. Either my expectations towards this very salad are way out of reach for most restaurants or serving this classic gives chefs a good excuse to muck up a classic. Limp leaves, drowned in way too much dressing, over the top garlicky or Parmesan cluttered – all these things can quickly ruin an otherwise beautifully balanced mix,not to mention the heinous crime of dressing it with mayonnaise.
I realize I’m possibly opening up a can of worms, triggering a debate on authenticity. Try this at your own risk: Open a thread about Caesar salad in any food forum and you will be rewarded with an endless and heated debate between people telling you what ingredients you have to use, why you are a complete moron if you don’t and the ones altering the recipes from start to finish. In my own words

“There are  certain classics that can not be messed with and this is one of them. Accept no substitute, being palmed off with a flavoured mayonnaise is just not good enough”
Blog post June 2011

“Trust me, a Caesar is no proper Caesar without anchovies.Accept no substitutes”.
Blog post April 2013

Actually, I understand both sides, I really do, yet I never got the point why people tend to become overly bossy and dogmatic when discussing food.
I started talking Butarga (" the caviar of the Mediterranean “)on this blog in November last year when I had my first hands on encounter with it.Since then Its subtle taste of smoked sea flavour has left me with a curious appetite for experimenting with other permutations.
It doesn’t hurt to inform yourself before preparing a classic recipe of what the traditional recipe involves.That said, your kitchen is your playground, feel free to try whatever floats your boat – just don’t call it authentic or classic anymore.Restaurant Caesars I have come across have included Creole chicken,crispy bacon and even cubes of avocado.So i don't feel so bad about my very minor twist.I replaced the anchovies with shavings of Butarga.Butarga can be used sliced or grated and so for a bit of added punch I grated some over the top of the salad along with the parmesan

Caesar salad with buttarga

FOR THE CROUTONS
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100g 3-day old white bread cut into 3cm cubes

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/390F/ gas mark 5. Toss the bread cubes around in a bowl with the oil.Spread over a baking tray  and bake in the oven, turning occasionally for 20 minutes until golden brown.Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 CLASSIC CAESAR DRESSING
2 cloves garlic
4 anchovy fillets
1Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 eggs plus two egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon
125ml white wine vinegar
250ml extra virgin olive oil
300ml sunflower oil
Blend all the ingredients in a processor until smooth and creamy.

FOR THE SALAD
12 thin slices of Butarga
1 large head crisp cos or romaine lettuce, centre stems removed
and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
⅔ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, toss the torn up lettuce with the croutons and Butarga slices. Add the dressing to taste, reserving any extra for another use. Add the Parmesan and butarga grating, toss again so the cheese and fish gratings adhere to the salad leaves.Serve immediately.

Butarga tips:
Can be used sliced ​​or grated on salads or in sauces or stuffings
Grate into scrambled eggs just before serving
Use in Spaghetti dishes as you would anchovies or smoked salmon



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