These are tough times for Caesar salad lovers. Though it’s reportedly safe to consume romaine lettuce that you’re positively sure isn’t from Yuma, Arizona, it’s also perfectly normal to feel a little wary of that particular leaf. The bright side is that this crisis has given us a wonderful opportunity to talk about three other plant parts that make really excellent Caesars.
Romaine is great in Caesars because it is fairly crispy, even when tossed with a generous amount of dressing, but it doesn’t have a ton of flavour on its own. It is, in short, a vehicle for dressing, which is a very noble calling, but we can do better. The following leaves not only hold their own texturally in a Caesar salad, but they bring a little something extra to the party in terms of taste.
These crisp, perfectly-sized, bittersweet leaves are sturdy enough to take a decent dousing of dressing—the best part of a Caesar—and, in my opinion, they have an even better texture than romaine. Endive never touches dirt, so you don’t have to wash it, but I like to at least wipe the outer leaves with a damp cloth, because I don’t know who has touched them and where their hands have been. After that, just peel the leaves away from the core, discarding any yucky looking ones, and toss with your favourite Caesar dressing. (Oh, and choose pale leaves; they taste better than super green ones.)
Though I do not enjoy a whole, raw sprout, they make a delightful salad base when thinly sliced or shredded. They’re pretty tough, which means they can hang out in dressing overnight without getting soggy, which means you can prep your lunchtime Caesar the night before, and grab it and go in the morning.
This purple-hued head of lettuce is quite bitter, but that just means it can balance even the most garlicky, anchovy-forward dressing you can throw at it. I like to peel the leaves from the head, stack them on top of each other, and slice them into ribbons before tossing them with dressing and topping them with garlicky, crunchy croutons, fresh pepper, and Parmesan cheese.
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