Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to make my Dad's Caesar Salad

My Dad is a "meat and potatoes" kinda guy. I think a perfect meal in his eyes would be a grilled rare steak with a baked potato and LOTS of garlicky homemade caesar salad.

It was a tradition in our house that at least every other week Dad grilled steaks for dinner, mom baked the potatoes, and usually Dad made the caesar salad. It was my job to either rub toast with garlic for croutons or tear up the romaine lettuce into bite size peices.

Our family caesar salad has a unique history. My grandfather went on business trips when my dad was growing up. He would visit really exotic places like... Chicago! While my grandfather was visiting Chicago during one trip he went to a big fancy restaurant which served caesar salad! My grandfather was so impressed with the salad that he asked the chef to come out and tell him how to make the salad, since it wasn't likely they would be serving this stuff in rural western North Carolina any time soon! The chef obliged and gave my grandfather the recipe.

My grandfather taught both his sons how to make this amazing salad, and the tradition has been passed on ever since. You can bet that at any family related event we might be having, a fresh homemade caesar salad will probably appear.

When Michael and I got married, one of my first requests was that he learn how to make this caesar salad.

When Michael first tried this salad he could only stand a few bites! It was just entirely too garlicky and tart with red wine vinegar for his tastes! Now, nearly 4 years later, Michael IS the one adding more red wine vinegar because it wasn't tart enough for HIM! He loves this stuff and I am so glad! When we have this salad now, Michael always makes the caesar dressing and I'm still stuck with my job of tearing up the lettuce leaves and making the now gluten free croutons!

So... here is how we make this awesome salad:

Dad's Caesar Salad
  • 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 med. garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp. anchovy paste
  • 4 slices gluten free bread
  • Sea Salt/Pepper
  • 1 large head Romaine lettuce
  • 4 small garlic cloves (for croutons)
  • 3/4 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. For starters, you need a big wooden bowl! Preferably one that you ONLY use for caesar salad as the garlic tends to flavor the wood! The bowl we used growing up was hand carved from one huge peice of wood! Michael and I found a very similar and much older bowl at an antique store years ago and I had to have it for just this purpose!

2. Rinse out your wooden bowl and smush fresh garlic cloves all over the inside of the bowl.

3. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, egg yolk, dry mustard, anchovy paste, and finally freshly ground sea salt and pepper to your liking. Mix thoroughly.

4. Rinse the romaine leaves and pat them dry. Tear leaves into bite size peices and toss into salad bowl.

5. Bake 4-5 pieces of very thinly sliced gluten-free bread. Rub bread slices with small garlic cloves and bake at 375 degrees until dry and toasted. Break or cut slices into croutons.

6. Add freshly grated parmesan cheese and toss salad. Serve Immediately. Supposed to make 4-6 servings. Michael and I can eat a whole salad as a main dish! Excellent served with grilled chicken or salmon.

For a printer friendly version, click here.

  • If you are highly opposed to using raw eggs, you can make the dressing without the egg yolk! It is still very good (just not authentic!) We've never had a problem doing this.
  • Also, we skipped the parm. cheese last night since we're not eating dairy this week. I can tell you that I really missed the cheese!~
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  1. I love the pictures you posted! It totally made me go "awww" over Michael helping you in the kitchen! I love the story about how your Dad started making the salad! Eventhough I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like it you make me want to try it anyway!
    Great post hun!

  2. Thanks Jenn! I love that story too! I wish I knew what restaurant my grandfather went too! That would be so cool if we could go there and have that original salad!

  3. Most grocery stores (and Walmart even)now sell pasteurized eggs. Like pasteurized milk, they are completely safe in raw form. I think they are cooked, but not until the proteins coagulate.

  4. Natalie! That's great info! Thanks so much! I had no idea about the pasteurized eggs! I'll have to be on the look out for them! Thanks girl!

  5. Ohhhh croutons! I miss them so bad. I think I need to make some croutons. I thought that was so cute how he thought Chicago was exotic!

    Also, I just have to that your back door open? And the screen too? Is it that warm there? I am sooooo jealous if it is. I am sooooo cold here. I just had to look at that picture for a while and sigh. Ahh warm weather memories. I am counting the days. I'd be so happy if we would just hit the 30's here.

  6. Hey Melanie! LOL You definitely need to make some croutons! Gluten free bread works so well for croutons! I actually cheated last night and just put on some dairy free margarine, sprinkled them with garlic granules and oregano! MMMMmmmmm!!! Bake until they are hot and crispy! Excellent!

    As far as the weather! it's so funny because we are just praying for weather like you are having! LOL It's actually in the 50's here! I think the main door is open, but the glass door is closed, so we're still keeping out the 50's weather! LOL But we want snow SOOOOO badly! And we're just not getting it! Not cold enough and not enough moisture! Oh well! Come on down girl! You are welcome any time! LOL

  7. PS Melanie... I agree about Chicago being exotic! LOl isn't it funny how life has changed in the past 50 years! My grandfather would have thought the internet was so cool! I wish I could have met him! My dad says he was always into the latest gadgets and the coolest new things! And world travel would have been so much easier now, he could have traveled to really exotic places! ;-)

  8. I absolutely love Caesar salad!!!!!! Caesar is the only salad dressing I eat, but the bottled stuff is so fattening (and I can't find the fat free Ken's anywhere). But homemade dressing sounds even better.
    Stupid question of the day - does red wine vinegar have alcohol in it?

  9. Hi Cassandra! That's not a silly question at all! And actually I am not completely sure... I searched this on the internet and this seems to be the most reasonable answer I found, but I can't prove that it is correct:

    "Most vinegars have turned the alcohol into acetic acid--that's what creates vinegar. The acetobacteria eats the alcohol, and turns it into acid. But there may be trace elements of alcohol in vinegar--just as there are frequently trace elements of alcohol in such things at stewed fruit and fruit juices. The level is pretty low--below 2%. Red wine vinegar uses red wine as a base, but it doesn't have much alcohol in it at all. Anything that contains sugar and is then exposed to yeast will begin to ferment, albeit very slowly. Once fermentation begins, there will be a tiny amount of alcohol."


    I hope this helps Cass! Not a silly question at all! If anybody disagrees with this answer or has a more definite answer, I'd love to know myself!

  10. Thanks! I think I'll definitely have to get some (and some pasteurized eggs - Egg Beaters, I think) and make some of this up. So good...

  11. Oh definately going on my must try list!!! Sounds yummy!!!

  12. Cass, you could also use plain old mayonnaise in place of the egg yolk! Just use 1 Tbsp. of mayonnaise in place of it!

    I think you probably wouldn't want to use egg beaters because it's made of egg whites, and I don't know how well that would work in the salad! they would just be gooey and sort of stringy, I'm not sure they would make the consistency of the dressing right!

  13. YUM!!!!!!!

    I may have to make this tonight..or a version, have to see what I have on hand.

    I love ceasar salad, I love them creamy, garlicy, and which way..


    And, I do love the back story as well. Thanks for sharing your family with us.

  14. SM -- this caesar dressing is definitely more of a vinaigrette type dressing, than really creamy! I'm tempted to try it with using mayonnaise sometime for a creamier approach! If you make it, let me know what you think!

  15. Oh, Mayonnaise would be so much easier.
    (I've never used Egg Beaters before, but I often hear them suggested.)

  16. I love Ceasas Salad. Yumm! Will you have Michael come up and teach my husband how to help with dinner? That would be so nice. I envy you.

  17. Lea -- You're sweet! Michael is willing to help! I have to beg and plead sometimes, but he always enjoys it once he gets into it! Especially when I make him feel like he's an expert at doing something. So I always tell him that he makes a much better caesar dressing than I do, and he fries eggs better than I do, and he seasons stir fries much better than I do! This seems to entice him occasionally to help me! I think he really enjoy doing the caesar salad though! I think he likes showing that off when we have company! ;-) He's a good guy! I was blessed outa my socks to marry him!