A Caesar salad is a salad of romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. It may be prepared tableside.
The salad's creation is generally attributed to restaurateur Caesar Cardini, an Italian-born Mexican. Cardini was living in San Diego but also working in Tijuana where he avoided the restrictions of Prohibition. His daughter Rosa (1928–2003) recounted that her father invented the dish when a Fourth of July 1924 rush depleted the kitchen's supplies. Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the table-side tossing "by the chef."
A number of Cardini's staff have claimed to have invented the dish.
Julia Child claimed to have eaten a Caesar salad at Cardini's restaurant when she was a child in the 1920s.
The earliest contemporary documentation of Caesar Salad is a 1946 Los Angeles restaurant menu, twenty years after the 1924 origin asserted by the Cardinis.
The original Caesar salad recipe (unlike Alex's Aviator's salad) did not contain pieces of anchovy; the slight anchovy flavor comes from the Worcestershire sauce. Cardini was opposed to using anchovies in his salad.
In the 1970s, Cardini's daughter said that the original recipe included whole lettuce leaves, which were meant to be lifted by the stem and eaten with the fingers; coddled eggs; and Italian olive oil.
The trademarks "Cardini's", "Caesar Cardini's" and "The Original Caesar Dressing" are all claimed to date to February 1950, though they were only registered decades later, and more than a dozen varieties of bottled Cardini's dressing are available today. Some recipes include mustard, avocado, tomato, bacon bits, garlic cloves or anchovies. Cardini's Brand original Caesar dressing is somewhat different from Rosa's version.
Many restaurants offer a more substantial salad by topping a Caesar salad with grilled chicken, steak, or seafood. Certain Mexican restaurants may improvise on items such as substituting tortilla strips for croutons and Cotija cheese for the Parmesan, or the addition of tomatoes.
Ingredients according to the Hotel Caesar's recipe from about 2006: romaine or cos lettuce, olive oil, fresh crushed garlic, salt to taste, fresh-ground black pepper, wine vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, raw or coddled egg yolks, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, freshly prepared croutons.
There are limitless variations. However, some of the more traditional are:
- other varieties of lettuce
- grilled poultry, meat, shellfish, or fish
- Romano cheese
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