A few months ago, a super exciting thing happened and I leveled up into my own office at work (we share for the first few years). OK, so it’s true, it has no windows. That comes after three years. But for the first time I have a little cave all to myself! I went a tad crazy decorating my haven with gratuitously shiny file racks and cups shaped like fishes and a couple of the dreamy cookbooks I’ve been coveting, like Karen Mordechai’s Sunday Suppers and Kristen Miglore’s Food52 Genius Recipes. It’s pretty much all the things I do not need to practice law. But it makes my new nook so homey! (And it gives me a neat little escape from work whenever I feel like daydreaming about food.)
It was on one of those cookbook work breaks when I flipped to a Frankies Spuntino recipe in Genius Recipes and almost ran home at that exact moment to make it. Frankies has a special place in my heart, both for really good food and a really great date night B2 and I had a few summers back — one of those evenings where the late golden light stays suspended in the sky way longer than seems reasonable, and you think there’s going to be a wait but there magically is none, and you stuff yourself full of crostini, fat rigatoni, and chewy gnocchi, and totter home feeling like this is what New York summers are made of. So there was no doubt in my mind that this recipe would be a great one, just waiting to be made in commemoration of that happy buzz from a good dinner under twinkling lights on an outdoor patio.
The recipe is a quick and almost impossibly easy one for Caesar dressing, aptly described as “heretical,” yet “fiercely convenient.” It cuts out whisking and emulsifying and raw egg and anxiety and sweat in favor of a blender and everything you probably already have in your fridge, but without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. Between this and Molly’s dill hollandaise, I’m so very sold on blender dressings — it’s none of the hassle for all of the same (if not better) results. Though all this dressing really needs is a heart or two of romaine, I sliced up a few day-old kaiser rolls to make crunchy croutons to throw on top, and pan-seared a little salmon with some salt, pepper, and lemon to add heft. Everything about this is simple, with no unnecessary frills. And the result is everything I’d ever want from a Caesar salad — the dressing is gently briny, just the right amount of salty and pungent, but with a comforting creaminess underlying it all. Buttery salmon gives the sardines a little company, and garlicky, faintly cheesy croutons pair up neatly with the Pecorino Romano. All in all, it fits right into the quick and refreshing, but still delightful, series of summer lunches we’ve been having lately.
Hope you’re staying cool and having wonderful Wednesdays!
This paragon of blender-dressing genius is scaled down from Food52 Genius Recipes and Frankies Spuntino. If you can bear fifteen minutes with the oven, the homemade croutons are a breeze, and a quick sear of some salmon adds staying power. If you're icked out by too much fish-on-fish, I think some grilled shrimp would be amazing here too, or a good old BSCB.
- for the croutons:
- 1 cup diced day-old bread
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil (or as needed to coat)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2-3 tbsp grated Parmesan (or to taste)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- for the dressing:
- 2 tbsp (12g) grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup (55g) mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp (30ml) water, plus more as needed
- 3/4 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 anchovy fillet
- 1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/8 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- salt and pepper, to taste
- for the salmon:
- two 4-oz salmon fillets
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- to serve:
- 1 romaine heart with outer leaves removed
- To make the croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss diced bread in olive oil until evenly coated, then spread on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Season generously with salt, pepper, Parmesan, and garlic powder, then bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring once, until sides are golden. Set aside and let cool.
- To make the salmon: Pat fillets dry on both sides, paying special attention to the skin-side if you're leaving it on. (I do because I love me some crispy salmon skin.) Season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and salmon, skin-side down (if applicable). Cook about 4-5 minutes, until skin is crispy, then flip and cook the other side for another 4-5 minutes, until fish flakes easily. Try not to flip more than once. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside to let cool briefly.
- Next, trim the root ends from the romaine, separate the leaves, and wash and dry them. Put the lettuce in the fridge to chill while you prepare the dressing.
- To make the dressing: In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients for the dressing except the salt and black pepper, and puree until smooth. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, simply mince the garlic and anchovy as finely as you can, then whisk them with the remaining ingredients.
- Taste and adjust with salt to taste -- the ingredients have a fair amount of salt, so you likely will not need any. Loosen the dressing with more water if needed. Set aside.
- Toss the chilled lettuce with the dressing in a large bowl. Serve immediately with croutons, salmon, more grated cheese, and a turn of black pepper.