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09/24/2021

~ The History Behind the Very Famous Caesar Salad ~

6a0120a8551282970b01a511b10aec970cOver the past four decades, the classic Caesar salad has:  #1)  Become America's most popular main-dish salad; #2) Altered the lettuce industry, as the demand for romaine has skyrocketed, and: #3) Turned the chicken-topped Caesar salad into the chicken item most frequently found on restaurant menus -- even more than wings and chicken fingers.  Now considered the all-American salad, it was in fact invented in Mexico in 1924 by an Italian-born immigrant to Mexico.

Now considered the all-American salad, the Caesar was invented on July 4th, 1924, by an Italian-Mexican chef & co-owner of a restaurant in Tijuana, who emigrated to & resided in America.

Caesar Cardini lived in San Diego, but worked as a co-owner in a Tijuana restaurant in order to avoid the restrictions of Prohibition. He concocted his now iconic salad late in the day on the Fourth of July, for some Hollywood celebrities, after the holiday crowd had depleted his kitchen of many ingredients.  He used romaine lettuce (which doesn't impress us today, but back then it was an uncommon ingredient) and tossed it with a dressing made from just six ingredients:  garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese.  In the original salad, he used whole lettuce leaves, which were meant to be picked up and eaten with the fingers.  The original salad dressing contained no anchovies, but got its slight anchovy flavor from the Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies).  Later, the salad was tossed and served at tableside, and posh restaurants in Hollywood and LA, who catered to the upper class, soon began offering it with an optional anchovy or three mashed into the dressing as an added flavor enhancer.

Cardini served his original salad arranged atop leaves of long, slender hearts-of-romaine.  One-at-a-time, each leaf was intended too be picked up & eaten out-of-hand.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39dfd58200bI've heard it said that a restaurant is only as good as its Caesar salad and a Caesar salad is only as good as its dressing.  A few decades ago, back in the 1970's, '80's and '90's, when people still had an appreciation for the snobbery of an elegant restaurant, that was true, and no one enjoyed the fanfare of watching a black-tied waiter prepare my Caesar salad, to my liking, at tableside, more than me.  If a Caesar salad was on a restaurant menu, I ordered it.  Nowadays -- not so much.  Fast forward.  In our present-day Olive Garden-, Carrabba's-type atmosphere, I'm betting most folks wouldn't know a good Caesar salad, or a good Caesar dressing from a bad one, even if they got hit on the head with an olive wood bowl.  I find this disheartening because the simple elegance of a well-prepared Caesar salad is indeed an extraordinary dining experience.

Try my Creamy, Garlic & Peppery Caesar-Style Dressing:

IMG_9765Try my Italian-Seasoned Caesar-Style Salad/Soup Croutons too:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39d62b4200bThen make a Little Gems Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Style Salad:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad357dde3200c-800wiOr maybe a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sub perhaps?

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c333c2200b

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021

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