On Fourth of July weekend in 1924, Cardini had a full house but was getting low on food. In a moment of that inspiration so often born of necessity, Cardini created the Caesar salad by putting together traditional fresh Italian ingredients that he had in his kitchen, making it for his admiring customers at tableside. As first conceived, the salad was meant to be eaten as finger food, with long dressed leaves of hearts of romaine picked up by hand. Later, Cardini began breaking the lettuce leaves up into a tossed salad as we know it today.
For the record, anchovies, which many consider the basis of the recipe, were not originally included; that flavor was provided by Worcestershire Sauce, which does contain anchovies. Other original ingredients included freshly made, garlic-y croutons, fine extra-virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and coarsely ground pepper and shaved Parmesan cheese. The recipe nowadays often includes wine vinegar, a quickly coddled egg and anchovy filets. Everyone has their own variations and my friend Tommy's version, which I'm going to give you here, is no exception! Of course, however you like your Caesar made up, it's centrally important to use only sweet crunchy Romaine lettuce, and if you use your own freshly harvested Renee's Caesar Duo heads, you're sure to have good results.
My recipe is one that you can make up quickly and easily whenever you are in the mood for savory Caesar. It was concocted by my friend Tom Shepherd in Tampa, FL some years ago. I make it many times a year both for the family and for company.
Try our exclusive Renee's Caesar Duo. I've paired my favorite romaine lettuces, choosing crispy red and green leafed varieties, to grow into dense heads for your fresh gourmet Caesar salads.
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Tommy's Tampa Caesar
Finely chop 2 or 3 large, plump cloves of garlic and combine them with 1/2 cup of good, fruity, extra-virgin olive oil. (If you have time, let the oil stand for a few hours to pick up the full garlic flavor.) Wash, dry well, and chill two heads of fresh romaine lettuce. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the garlic oil. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups cubed French or Italian crusty baguette-type bread. Sauté until lightly browned, then add salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.
Chop 1 two ounce can of anchovy filets (reserve the oil they come in) and then, with a fork, mash them up into a paste with their reserved oil. Pour in the rest of the garlic oil and stir well. Add 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard powder, 6 drops of Worcestershire Sauce, 3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar, all the juice of one fresh lemon and a few generous grindings of fresh pepper.
Tear the lettuce leaves into serving size pieces and mound in a large salad bowl. Whisk the salad dressing to combine the ingredients well and pour over the lettuce. Toss salad well, then top with the garlic croutons and grate or shave 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh Parmesan or Asiago cheese over the salad. Enjoy immediately!