This classic salad has come a long way because its 1924 invention by Caesar Cardini at his Tijuana restaurant. It’s now found on virtually every menu in the country at home and in restaurants. Because there are as many ways to make it as there are cooks, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about authenticity, just flavour. My version includes the wonderfully aromatic addition of whole basil leaves.
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
1/2 loaf Italian bread
a few generous splashes olive oil
2 heads romaine lettuce
a handful or two whole basil leaves
1 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Caesar Dressing
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
Cut the bread into cubes and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat each one. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and toss it with the basil leaves, red onion and 1/2 cup (125 mL) or so of Caesar Dressing. Sprinkle the croutons on top and season with salt and pepper.
Try adding some crumbled bacon to the salad or, for a more elegant garnish, using a vegetable peeler to shave long slices from a wedge of Parmesan cheese. You may also leave the romaine leaves whole; that’s how Caesar Cardini originally did it. For a unique flavour boost, cut the whole lettuce head in half lengthwise and grilling it. You can also top any version with grilled chicken or shrimp to elevate the salad into a meal.