International food offerings in Morocco have increased dramatically in the last decade or so, and a happy finding for some is a traditional Caesar salad. I’m not talking about a salad thrown together quickly with bottled dressing—they do have their place and time—but rather a proper and classic Caesar salad where the dressing is mixed by hand directly in the bowl where the lettuce will be tossed.
Although this method makes for impressive tableside service in upscale dining rooms, it’s actually quite easy and takes only a few minutes.
My Caesar salad recipe below is based on the method I learned 25-plus years ago at the lovely Strathallan in Rochester, New York. There was in fact no written recipe at the boutique hotel; the salad was prepared to order by individual servers with the same logic as the Moroccan “your eye is your scale” methodology. I wrote down the estimated measures, refined them over time, and referred back to them when needed. The recipe has remained in my collection that followed me from Rochester to Washington, DC and then onward to Morocco, where I still make it frequently for my salad-loving family.
We usually serve it as a side, but it quickly transforms into a main dish if you top it with grilled chicken, steak or seafood.
Classic Caesar Salad Recipe with Homemade Croutons
For the Salad and Dressing
- 1 or 2 heads romaine lettuce (see Notes)
- 1 cup croutons (recipe below)
- 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
- 2 or 3 anchovy fillets ([adjustable]1 tbsp[/adjustable] mashed)
- 2 tsp garlic paste ([adjustable]2[/adjustable] cloves, pressed) or to taste
- 1 tbsp Dijon style mustard
- 2 egg yolks
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp worstershire sauce
- 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 slices bread (a great use for stale bread)
- 1 tbsp melted butter or olive oil
- garlic powder
Ahead of Time - Make the Croutons
- Preheat your oven to 400° F (200° C).
- Remove the crusts from the bread, then cut the bread into small evenly-sized cubes. Toss the cubes with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder. Drizzle the melted butter over the cubes and toss again.
- Spread the seasoned bread cubes in a single layer on your baking pan. Bake until golden and crispy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Watch carefully as once colored, they will darken quickly. Croutons made from stale bread tend to cook faster.
- Remove the croutons from the oven and leave to cool completely. They will store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Make the Caesar Salad
- Set up a work area with all ingredients ready. You can measure ingredients by eye or use a regular kitchen tablespoon.
- In a large salad bowl, mash the anchovies to a paste with a fork or back of a spoon. If the fillets are firm, add a splash of olive oil to help with the mashing.
- Add the garlic and mustard and blend into the anchovy paste. Next, blend in the egg yolks and as much freshly ground pepper as you like. (I use a coarse grind.) The mixture should be well-mixed and creamy.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, the lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar. Blend in thoroughly. Add the olive oil and blend again. Taste and adjust seasoning (ie. add a little more garlic or lemon juice or vinegar).
- Add the romaine, half of the Parmesan and half of the croutons. Toss well. Garnish with a little more freshly ground pepper and the remaining Parmesan and croutons. Serve.
- Use 1 very large head of romaine lettuce or 2 medium. Remove and discard outer leaves and use only the crisp interior leaves. Break the leaves into large pieces, wash in a bowl of water and spin dry or pat dry before using.
- If you don't care for anchovies, you can make the dressing without them or use less. You can also adjust the amount of garlic you use. In fact, I always suggest tasting the garlic before mixing the dressing since garlic can vary in pungency.
- The dressing uses raw egg yolk. Pasteurized egg yolk can be used instead if you're concerned about the health risk.
- You can use Moroccan bread (khobz) to make the croutons. It's actually a good use for leftover or stale bread.
- Although Caesar salad dressing is usually made fresh at time of serving, I do occasionally make a large batch and keep some in the fridge. It lasts several days.