Growing up, my Mom was, and still is, famous for her Caesar Salads. Thankfully, I was the fortunate recipient of her food and recipes and now through my blog posts - I can share them with you!
Mom very rarely had us eat store-bought dressings. Not that anything was wrong with store-bought, she just preferred to make her own. I remember sitting up at the kitchen counter with friends and family night after night watching her whisk the ingredients together against her antique, wide, wooden salad bowl. She'd send one of the four of us out to the Meyer lemon bushes in our sunny courtyard of Carmel Valley, California to gather a handful of small, sweet lemons for our dinner preparations.
It was comforting to sit and watch her in action. Mom always had great music playing in the house and even though I had my bedroom, I preferred to sit in the kitchen doing my homework watching dinner be prepared. The conversation seemed to always ebb and flow with such ease and the allure of it drew in many of our loved ones needing a family 'fix' over the years. But, to this day, when someone mentions the words 'Caesar Salad' I think of Mom and the sound of her whisk against our salad bowl, sitting in the center of our home on the kitchen barstools and of course eating that crisp, peppery, cheesy Caesar Salad!
We had a kitchen phone with a long cord (nearly the length of our hallway) that all six of us shared so we could talk to our friends for hours upon hours. We had the famous 'junk drawer' that always had an array of chips, cookies and crackers that many of our friends growing up benefited from through the years! And with our home came an endless flow of kids, neighbors, friends, and animals that wandered in and out all day long. I remember clear as day my father lecturing all of us to "think about what you want to eat, then open the fridge and grab it". Our electricity bill must of been out of site from all of us standing in front of the fridge pondering what we wanted. It makes me laugh because I find myself lecturing my own kids and their friends over the same issue! Our home was busy and fun and never boring.
I came to realize I was not alone in my thoughts and observations of these most heart-warming times. There were great memories that took place in that wonderful kitchen. It made me realize it's 'us' the 'people' in the house that makes it a home. It's the love and effort to want to make it special for each other and to create an atmosphere of connection that creates that warmth.
Mom has always made every house we lived in a home and I am so thankful for that lesson in life. It is up to each of us to create our own happiness and it's perfectly within our reach. Just pull out your whisk and turn up the tunes!
Over the years, my siblings and I have created many versions of Mom's classic Caesar Salad, and have all continued to make our dressings from scratch. I really appreciate knowing exactly what I'm feeding my family and using the freshest ingredients. It's almost impossible to go "store-bought" after a life of homemade! This particular version is easy and fast and uses a blender, but still has all the key ingredients of a traditional Caesar. Even though my kids say this is "my" signature salad, I will always give the credit to my Mom who continues to entertain us with her cooking and continues to create so many beautiful memories for us all to pass down through our family.
TIPS & TRICKS
Very chilled clean lettuce is key! Please wash and chill in the fridge, it makes a difference!
Use fresh ingredients.
Fresh garlic or elephant garlic I find to be more peppery than the prepared minced garlic in a jar.
When you're making your croutons, make sure in the end they are loaded with garlic, cheese, oil, garlic salt and are very crunchy! Just keep adding and stirring to your liking. Getting them crunchy on the outside, while keeping the center soft and a bite oily is absolute heaven! Also, have fun trying different types of bread.
Even if you can't stand the taste of anchovies like me, please use it for this dressing! You will never know it's there, but it adds the saltiness the dressing calls for. Trust me!
I love this recipe! It's wonderful for entertaining because I can prep everything the day before and throw it together minutes before eating. I urge you to get your family involved cleaning lettuce, gathering lemons, cracking the egg, whisking and grinding the pepper. Play some Frank Sinatra, tell wonderful stories and share in your day. In the end, this is what's important to me and it's in this process that the magic just seems to happen.