Caesar dressing is an incredible condiment, packed full of all sorts of flavours: richness from the egg yolk, umami (and salt) from the anchovies and parm, acid from the lemon, and pungency from the garlic and fresh pepper. Why, then, do we think of it as a mere lettuce topping, when it could be used to make any vegetable more enticing?
That’s exactly the question both asked and answered by this zucchini caesar salad from Blackberry Farms (featured on Food52). The salad is simple: Thinly sliced (or mandolined) zucchini is tossed with a little salt and pepper, then dressed with an herb-heavy caesar and crowned with frico (because cheese is a crouton). It’s a brilliant template, and there’s no reason you can’t apply it to any vegetable that strikes your fancy. It’s a great way to use up a windfall of zucchini, but it would work with asparagus, a bowl of cherry tomatoes, a pile of green beans, or even some blistered shishito peppers. Just toss with dressing and get some cheese involved.
The caesar dressing recipe from Blackberry Farms is almost a hybrid of caesar and green goddess. Anchovies are replaced with Worcestershire sauce (which actually contains anchovies), lemon juice is swapped out for sherry vinegar, and tarragon and chives make things a little more verdant. It’s an interesting caesar dressing recipe for sure, but you can always use your favourite if you don’t feel like branching out.
I’m partial to a classic, anchovy-heavy raw egg yolk dressing, but I also make a pretty good vegetarian version with blue cheese instead of little tinned fish. Cheese-wise, I think frico is the move (it brings flavour and texture), but air fried halloumi (cheese nuggets) would also slap, as would a roughly crumbled store-bought cheese crisp.
Finally, don’t neglect caesar-roasted vegetables, particularly once we’re done with these hot summer months. Caesar dressing works as a flavored roasting oil, adding tons of savoury flavour and caramelization when heated in a high-temp oven. Just toss a bowl of veggies with enough dressing to lightly coat them, then roast in a 200°C oven until they are soft in the centre and browned on the edges. Finish with lots of parm and a squeeze of lemon.