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Monday, May 25, 2009

caesar salad with garlicky croutons

image

our big wild ride

Several days ago Dan and I had the opportunity to take our tandem bicycle for a ride without pulling Meredith in the bike trailer. As you might guess, these occasions are relatively infrequent, and although we love the opportunity to get out as a family, Meredith at almost-five-years-old is getting not only weighty, but also not as excited about spending time in the bike trailer. I can’t blame her—she has her own bike now, and would rather bike than ride!

So, with several hours to spend on our own, we popped the tandem on the truck rack and headed for Indian, ten or so miles south of Anchorage, where the bike trail along Turnagain Arm begins. (Yes, we could bike to the trailhead, but then we wouldn’t have as much energy or time to enjoy the trail!) It was a beautiful sunny day, cool and crisp at 10 in the morning, and we were having a wonderful ride. In case you don’t live here in Alaska, you’re biking along a steep-sided arm of Cook Inlet, with glorious steep mountains on each side, snow-capped and streaming with waterfalls.

We’ve been tandem biking together since 1996, and we love it—you never have to hurry, you never have to wait, and you can chat as you bike. And after the first few weeks of learning to bike together back before we were married, we don’t fight on the bike anymore. There is a saying about tandem biking: “wherever your relationship is going, it’ll get there faster on a tandem.”  I think the same applies for canoeing together.

As we were coasting down a steep hill not far from the end of the trail in Girdwood, Dan (captaining, in the front position) suddenly slammed on the brakes. I was stoking (pedaling in the rear position), so couldn’t see what was ahead on the trail—I just hung on and tried not to drive my chin into his back. But then we slowed down and I could peer over Dan’s shoulder—and there was a very large lynx, trotting down the side of the bike trail! She (he?) heard us then, turned around to look at us, and then bounded up onto the side of the trail and into the trees. Gorgeous!

We rode into Girdwood, turned around, and on the way back, we were of course admiring the views up the mountain and across the Arm… and there was a woman on a mountain bike stopped, looking straight up the side of the mountain. We of course looked up—and there were four bears, far above us on the hillside, rolling and sliding and playing in a snowfield! They were so far away there was no worry, but we were close enough to watch them play.

WHAT A DAY!! We are so lucky to live in Alaska!

When we got home, we ate this wonderful salad for lunch on the deck. YUM!

 

caesar salad with garlicky croutons

This is a fun salad—and it makes a head of romaine into a complete meal. You can make a double batch of this dressing and refrigerate the leftovers in a jar for a meal later in the week, so you’re cooking once for two dinners.

It’s a great dish for company, and it’s very easy to bring it along to a potluck dinner—just bring all the components separately, and don’t dress the salad until you’re ready to sit down and eat. (Otherwise, the lettuce will wilt before you eat it.) It’s based on a recipe from Peggy Knockerbocker’s book Olive Oil: From Tree to Table.

I generally just serve this as an entire meal, because who wants to eat anything else? However, if you feel you need a little extra protein, it’s very nice topped with slices of grilled chicken breast or halibut (season with salt and pepper before grilling).

dressing:

half of a 2-ounce tin of oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and blotted dry on paper towels
3 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
fresh-ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, combine the anchovies and garlic and process to mix. Add the egg, most of the lemon juice, and the mustard and process to combine. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. Season with pepper and process again. Taste, and add as much of the remaining lemon juice as needed to get a good balance of flavors. Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.

salad & croutons:

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 large heads romaine lettuce, or 3 hearts of romaine
5 slices hearty whole-grain bread (preferably whole-wheat sourdough)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed in a garlic press
¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mash the garlic with the salt in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the olive oil. Cut the slices of bread into ½” cubes and toss them in the garlicky oil until the oil is thoroughly absorbed and distributed. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake for 15-25 minutes, until the croutons are crispy and golden-brown.
2. While the croutons are baking, wash the lettuce, dry the leaves and tear into pieces, and place in a large salad bowl.
3. When you’re ready to sit down and eat, drizzle some of the dressing over the leaves and toss, adding more dressing as needed until all the leaves are coated. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, toss again to mix, and then toss in the croutons. Sprinkle with pepper and serve right away, before the lettuce wilts.


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