HAIL, CAE­SAR

This salad has come a long way from its ori­gins as an im­pro­vised dish at a busy eatery. Now it’s a world-con­quer­ing clas­sic.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FOOD, SAM MANNERING -

The Amer­i­cans know cos let­tuce as ro­maine, which of­ten leads peo­ple to as­sume that the two are dis­tinct – they aren’t. Let’s go with cos, for sim­plic­ity’s sake. The

An­cient Egyp­tians friskily as­so­ci­ated cos with fertility, an al­lu­sion to it’s some­what dis­tinct shape. The word seems to have been de­rived from the Ara­bic word “khus”, mean­ing let­tuce, whereas ro­maine comes from the Ital­ians, who call it “lat­tuga Ro­mana”, or Ro­man let­tuce.

Enough geek­ery. On to my friend Cae­sar Car­dini.

As the story goes, Car­dini, an Ital­ian-Amer­i­can who set up shop in Ti­juana, Mex­ico, im­pro­vised the Cae­sar salad one busy Fourth of July, when the place was com­pletely slammed with cus­tomers. Be­ing an en­ter­pris­ing type, he de­cided to make up a dish at ta­ble with what­ever left­over in­gre­di­ents he could bang to­gether.

As with any dish that’s even re­motely main­stream, the vari­a­tions are end­less (as are the ar­gu­ments as to the best).

The orig­i­nal recipe calls for ro­maine let­tuce, a cod­dled egg, gar­lic, good Ital­ian olive oil, Worces­ter­shire sauce and plenty of parme­san.

Cae­sar him­self re­port­edly shunned the use of an­chovies, pre­fer­ring the tang of Worces­ter­shire.

I dis­agree. I like an­chovy. I like di­jon. And I re­ally love fried gar­licky bread. You may choose to omit some, or all. Add what­ever you like. Roast chicken, crisp ba­con, whole an­chovy fil­lets; heck, go full 80s and add straw­ber­ries if you want (yes, this was, for the briefest of hor­ri­fy­ing mo­ments, a thing; I wouldn’t rec­om­mend it).

For some rea­son I find this dish quite ro­man­tic. Per­haps it has some­thing to do with leg­endary sta­tus; of some­thing so sim­ple be­ing so pow­er­ful. Oh, lis­ten to me. Wax­ing lyri­cal. Make it and see. It’ll make the shad­ows of those gloop­ily dressed things of the 80s and 90s dis­ap­pear for­ever.

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