Thursday, July 14, 2016

If you love Caesar salad, here's a "mock" Super Caesar salad recipe that's super-healthy

While we're on the subject of salads, I love Caesar salad. I can never get enough of it, but I've gotten into the habit of buying my Caesar salads (with kale) encapsulated in plastic bags sprayed with God knows what to keep it fresh looking for so long. It's the dressing in that little packet inside the bag that keeps me coming back for more. Because it is refrigerated, the little packet of dressing inside the bag must be made differently from bottled Caesar salad dressing. I hate bottled Caesar salad dressing.

I adore the dressing on the Caesar salad at Outback, but romaine is the only green in it, so it's not really the type of salad I need to be consuming. A high-fat dressing is only worth it if the fat is helping you absorb a ton of nutrients from your raw superfood salad.

So I decided I needed to learn to make a good Caesar salad dressing at home so that I could optimize my Caesar salad nutritionally with a multitude of healthy greens. This dressing just builds on my Go-To Dressing in the last post. They share many of the same ingredients, but the SuperCaesar dressing incorporates a few more superfoods for a superhealth punch. When I first began redesigning the classic Caesar salad recipe, I first had to learn what was actually in the traditional dressing. I checked out the recipe on Epicurious (my favorite recipe site) and the salad and dressing includes:

Classic Caesar Recipe from Epicurious (for comparison only)

6 anchovy fillets packed in oil
1 small garlic clove
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
3 cups torn 1" pieces country bread
3 romaine hearts
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

I was surprised. Classic Caesar salad, unexpectedly, is pretty healthy on its own. It's a way to incorporate superfoods that are hardly ever used otherwise.

Remember my post on guacamole? It's the same idea. Guacamole gives us ways to incorporate superfoods like avocado, raw lemon juice, raw garlic, raw onions, raw tomatoes, raw peppers and fresh herbs

I'm always looking for ways to incorporate these items (especially raw garlic and raw lemon juice). Caesar salad dressing does just that. It incorporates the following superfood beauties we rarely consume otherwise:

Raw lemon juice - everything I read says OVER and OVER that raw lemon juice is good for EVERYTHING. It's such a simple thing, but I never have gotten to where I consistently juice a lemon and drink the juice. I love lemonade, but I put a ton of sugar in it. I put lemon in my water when I go to restaurants but I really don't like it. It's the same thing with Apple Cider Vinegar. I just don't like it and can't get in the habit. So I try to incorporate it in recipes every chance I get. It's also got a high dose of pectin, the fiber that ferments in your gut and feeds healthy bacteria. A juice with fiber. Lemon juice is buh-buh-buh-bad to the bone.

Raw garlic - this stuff is soooooo good for us but soooooo awful. Have you tried raw garlic? Eeeeek. I chop it up and put it in water and drink it down fast but I'm miserable doing it and so don't do it often. But I love guacamole and Caesar salad dressing and both contain raw garlic that I don't even notice I'm eating. Garlic has that FOS type of fiber that also feeds a healthy gut and is linked to higher immune function.

Raw egg yolks - Dr. Mercola is the source to read about raw egg yolks if you're game to try them. He goes on and on about the health benefits. Like I said in my Go-To Salad Dressing Post: You can put them in smoothies, like he does, but I still worry about raw egg (especially for the elderly, small children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems). Dr. Mercola says "almost raw" or "slightly cooked" egg yolks offer almost the same benefit, so I get my raw egg benefits when I slightly cook egg yolks in making my homemade Hollandaise sauce. Enough cooking to make it safe, but almost raw enough to give you the benefits of raw egg yolk. The other way I eat it raw is in my Go-To Salad Dressing and this Caesar Salad Dressing. There's so much raw garlic, I don't think bacteria would thrive in my Caesar dressing. I also only do this with pastured organic eggs.

Anchovies - which you would NEVER eat otherwise, but they are packed with healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and are a small fish so not likely to be contaminated with heavy metals or other contaminants from the sea. I'm always looking for ways to incorporate SMALL FISH. Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency is HUGE in this country because we don't eat enough fish. When we do eat fish, it's big fish like catfish, full of contamination (catfish are bottom-feeders and collect the worst of polluted waters). Tuna is another big fish. The bigger and older the fish, the more contaminated it will be. Alot of us eat farm-raised salmon which has very little of anything good for us. The truth is, only wild-caught salmon or small fish like sardines and anchovies both give us the Omega 3s and come with very little contamination. Most people can't afford fresh wild-caught salmon (and they say alot of it is fake) and how often do you actually eat sardines or anchovies? I keep looking for good recipes for sardines but I haven't found any I like yet. So I just choke them down straight. You better believe I don't do that often. But anchovies in Caesar dressing, I do like. And they accomplish the same Omega 3 fatty acid infusion you would get from outlandishly price Coho Salmon (that might even be fake). They also give you the calcium and B-12 and other benefits you'd get from sardines. They are a bit saltier than sardines, but just rinse them off. (Sometimes they fall apart when you rinse them, so just gently soak them in water for 30 minutes then lift them out and into your Caesar dressing, leaving behind much of the salt in the soaking water. I'm trying to learn to add anchovies to many dishes--as a replacement for salt. Another benefit of anchovies is that you can find them in glass jar, not canned. I buy canned sardines from Crown Prince in extra virgin olive oil and BPA-free cans, but there are more troubling chemicals than just BPA in modern day cans. We should stay away from all cans--if we can. I like the glass container, so here's a link to anchovies in glass:  Anchovies in Glass Jars on (cheapest I've found) It 's the Roland brand that comes out to $1.42 a 4.25 oz jar. I had originally given a link to Crown Prince before or Bellini (around $4-5/jar) but then I read a Serious Eats review where Roland came in ahead of both in quality and taste tests. I never would have guessed that. If you want the best anchovies, Ortiz is at the top (at about $15/jar).

As with all things I make at home, I try to incorporate as many healing superfoods as I can. I want to optimize the nutritional content of every calorie. 

When it comes to the lettuce, instead of simple romaine, I add watercress, baby kale and arugula to my Caesar salad.

In my recipe, I take away some of the olive oil in the dressing (and take out all of the vegetable oil) and replace it with avocado oil and the natural oils from the sunflower seeds that are pureed into the dressing. Why sunflower seeds? Did you know that most of us are deficient in Vitamin E? Know what the highest food source of Vitamin E is? You guessed it: the humble little sunflower seed. I try to sprinkled raw shelled sprouted sunflower seeds on everything.

I use high-CLA pecorino romano and parmigiano-reggiano instead of the standard parmesan normally called for in Caesar salad. Regular cheese really isn't very good for us. But there are exceptions I've been learning. Pecorino romano is made from raw milk of grass-fed sheep in a region of Italy renowned for high quality cheeses. They did a study on levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and guess which cheese had the highest levels? You guessed it. Google CLA and it will soon become clear why you need it. You could take CLA supplements, but the latest research says they don't work. But the studies using pecorino romano show profound effect. It also has a high butyrate content. There's a good word to google.

Then we come to the bread in traditional Caesar salad. I replace the traditional bread crumbs with gluten-free croutons. (Only until I can learn to make gluten free sourdough bread, then I'll rip up pieces of that and toast them for my breadcrumbs). I just can't live without breadcrumbs in Caesar salad or I'd toss the gluten-free bread. It's really not that good for you.

I could eat Caesar salad everyday, so I've decided to keep the ingredients on hand and make it up as often as possible. A large batch of my dressing should keep in the fridge a few days even with the raw egg content.


Salad Ingredients:

1 medium head romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded
Young spinach, dandelion greens, watercress and arugula, if available
Udi's gluten-free bread cut up into croutons, seasoned with garlic and salt and toasted in oven
Grated parmesano reggiano and pecorino romano to mix into salad with dressing
Sauteed thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
Grilled or sauteed shrimp or chicken if desired

SuperCaesar Dressing Ingredients:

2 tbsp fresh grated pecorino romano
2 tbsp fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
2 raw egg yolks (pastured organic eggs)
2 medium cloves garlic
3/4 tbs prepared Dijon mustard
4 anchovy fillets
1 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp water
1 tsp cracked black pepper
4 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (ideally raw and sprouted)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup unrefined avocado oil

I have a deep glass bowl with a plastic lid that I use to make my Caesar dressing. I don't use a bottle like I do with my more liquid go-to salad dressing. Caesar dressing has to be smushed and resmushed sometimes and little nuggets of anchovy can get caught in nooks and crannies and I want to be able to wash the bowl thoroughly between dressings. I make it in there and store any remaining dressing in the fridge in that same container. I just found this little container that I'm going to get to hold different dressings: 3 cup glass dressing pitcher with lid

First I take room temp egg yolks, add the lemon juice, begin whisking as I drop by drop then slow drizzle my olive oil (in tablespoons) then my avocado oil from the measuring cup in a faster drizzle into the eggs til it turns into a mayonnaise like emulsified substance. Once my mayonnaise base is established, then I crush and then peel my garlic cloves (I either use a garlic press or a fork to mash my garlic into a paste) and then crumble my anchovies into the bowl. I stir in my Dijon mustard, raw honey and cracked black pepper. I don't add salt because the anchovies and the cheeses are salty enough for me, but you can add salt to your dressing if you think it needs it. I like to stir in 1 tbsp each of my romano and parmigiano, then sprinkle the other two tbsp on top of the salad. In my Ninja, I puree my sesame seeds with a little water, then scrape that into my dressing and stir well. Voila!

Now, you are essentially making homemade mayonnaise here, and it is notoriously problematic. Tonight, my kitchen was too warm and I swear it messed up my batch. If you have a hand blender, it's much more fool-proof. Watch this video from Serious Eats to see how easy a hand blender makes the process of mayonnaise and extrapolate with my recipe for SuperCaesar dressing: Serious Eats The Food Lab Making Mayonnaise

You can use my recipe, throw in your egg, lemon, water, vinegar and salt, then your oil (and let the oil settle at the top) then emulsify with the hand blender, allowing its blades to pull your oil down slowly (rather than you drizzling). Once it is beginning to look like mayo, add everything else. Got it? Email me if you have questions.

And can I tell you the truth about something? When I'm making my personal recipe, I actually use 8 anchovies and 2-3 large cloves of garlic. And sometimes, if I'm in a mood, I'll eat the remaining anchovies with my fingers, after pouring a little Caesar dressing on them. Isn't that wicked? Anchovies coated with ground up anchovies. Vegetarians reading this will hate me.

Also, if you're trying to get more flax seed in your diet, soak a few tbsp of whole flax seeds overnight til they gel and swell, then spoon that jelled mess into your caesar dressing instead of the sunflower seeds...when I do this, I use a refined organic sunflower oil/coconut oil mix from Tourangelle (the oils in the cans). It makes an incredible dressing and mayonnaise, but it's not unrefined.  Refined oils are perfect when you don't want them to carry a this oil is amazing...and it's great for high-heat cooking...or blending into a dressing. I still prefer using avocado oil though...refined seed oils are notoriously not good for us. However, you could mix avocado oil and refined coconut oil as an alternative. But if you've got to have a quick normal tasting mayo or salad dressing, keeping Tourangelle's Organic SunCoco on hand is not a bad alternative.

**Raw eggs are not recommended for infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

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