Romaine, Avocado & Cilantro Salad w/ Caesar Vinaigrette & Homemade Croutons

Salads are something I like to make quite often, and I do.  I make them for brunch, lunch, and dinner, but mostly for dinner.  When I come home from work, and I don’t have enough time to make an elaborate meal, I make a salad.  Gladly, my husband and daughter don’t seem to mind.

ROMAINE, AVOCADO, AND CILANTRO CAESAR SALAD

1 head Romaine Lettuce
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
1 large Avocado
1/2 cup Cilantro leaves only
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 cups homemade Croutons – recipe below

Begin by washing all your produce and drying them thoroughly.  Chop the lettuce or tear it in any way you prefer, and place it in a large salad bowl.  Add the sliced tomatoes, olives, avocado, and grated Pecorino Romano to the lettuce.  Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems, and leave to the side for now.

CAESAR VINAIGRETTE

1 Garlic clove
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Orange juice
1 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Anchovy Fillets
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Pinch of Salt
10 grinds Black Pepper

 

In a blender or food processor, blend the garlic, lemon juice, orange juice, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy fillets, salt, and pepper together, while slowly drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil, until everything is emulsified .  Add the grated Pecorino Romano and blend one last time.  The result should be a Caesar dressing that has a vinaigrette consistency; in other words, it is not as creamy as the traditional version.  Place the vinaigrette in the refrigerator, until you are done with making the croutons, and are ready to serve the salad.

Traditional Caesar dressing does not have orange juice in it.  I like to use a splash of orange juice sometimes to balance the flavors.  The traditional version, however, has an egg yolk, which I have chosen to omit, as the Dijon mustard will be assisting with the emulsification of the dressing / vinaigrette.

Just a note: since you are using Pecorino Romano, which is a very salty yet delicious cheese, be careful with how much you salt the vinaigrette.  Thus the reason for a “pinch of salt” in the vinaigrette ingredients.  If you choose to substitute another cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, you may add a bit more salt.

HOMEMADE CROUTONS

2 cups cubed Ciabatta loaf 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
1 tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a bowl, mix your ciabatta bread cubes with the extra virgin olive oil, Piment d’Espelette*, and dried Italian seasoning, until every cube is thoroughly coded.  If you cannot find Piment d’Espelette, you may use paprika or cayenne pepper as a substitute, or you may omit this ingredient altogether.  Place the croutons on a baking sheet and in the oven for about 12- 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Don’t forget that they will continue to harden, even after they are out of the oven.  Remove them from the oven, and leave them to the side for a minute, before you top your salad with them.

*Piment d’Espelette is a chili from the Basque (Southern Atlantic) region of France.  The chili is dried then ground, and used in many regional dishes.  It is wonderfully DELICIOUS!  

Top the salad with the still warm croutons and the cilantro leaves.  Lightly drizzle the Caesar vinaigrette and toss the salad gently.  You may have this as your main meal by adding grilled chicken, fish, or meat, or you may have it as is.  You may also have it as your appetizer, before you serve a protein and a starch.  Whatever you decide to do, serve and ENJOY!


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