July 4, 2013

National Caesar Salad Day

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist -- the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one's vinegar." - Oscar Wilde

It's National Caesar Salad Day!

Although it's tempting to believe that Julius had something to do with today, the Caesar salad was actually created (or so food lore states) by an Italian-born man named Caesar Cardini in 1924 on July 4th (which explains the placement of today's food holiday). He owned a restaurant - creatively called Caesar’s Restaurant - in Tijuana, Mexico. Cardini was running low on supplies during that busy summer holiday, so he whipped together a salad for his guests and friends with what he did have on hand. And the Caesar salad was born. However (after the salad exploded in popularity, of course), other folks stepped forward saying they were actually the creators, including Caesar's brother Alex for example. Paul Maggiora, a partner of Caesar's, also claims the dish - which he called "Aviator's Salad" - was his brainchild and that he created it for some American airman.

And now you're all the wiser, foodies!

There was a spell of time in my late teens when I ate a lot of grilled chicken Caesar salads. It was what I ordered every time I went out with friends regardless of the restaurant we went to. I loved the crisp romaine, the tangy dressing, and the thickly shaved Parmesan. Mega noms, right? What I didn't love (and didn't initially know about) was the anchovies. No, you're right, I couldn't taste them. But when I found out they were there, hiding among the flavors that made me drool - those fishy pillocks - I could just never bring myself to take another bite of the stuff. It's totally psychological, I know, but the salad was forever ruined for me.

So how can we celebrate today on a plant-based diet (letting the 'chovies continue to roam the seas and not our salads)? I would recommend Post Punk Kitchen's "Classic Vegan Caesar". It's made with romaine, chickpeas, avocado, and a tahini-based dressing. It's a little bit of a mouthgasm (for a full blown one, though, I would add croutons of some kind... that extra crunch makes the whole thing a textural fun house in the mouth).

Happy National Caesar Salad Day!