In a dining environment where everyone is gaga for fresh, clean flavors, salads are an especially of-the-moment dining choice. But they have a rich and storied history, as well. These days, classic 20th century salads have been reinvented, reimagined and reinvigorated in exciting new ways.
Right up there with “omelet” as one of the most frequently misspelled menu items, Caesar Salad was created in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1924, by Italian-American restaurateur Caesar Cardini. The original version included Romaine lettuce, garlic, croutons, Parmesan cheese, soft-boiled eggs, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. (Cardini’s brother, Alex, was inspired to add anchovies a bit later.)
Fresh take: “Croutons are such an essential element of a Caesar salad, so that’s a good place to include your own creative twists,” says cookbook author Robin Asbell. Instead of using bread-based croutons, she suggests cubing veggies like parsnips or sweet potatoes, adding spices, roasting them at high heat and sprinkling them on a finished salad. Asbell makes a “California Caesar” with avocado, daikon radish and crab or sashimi-grade tuna. “I slice a California roll on top in place of traditional croutons.”
Iceberg lettuce, that mid-century mainstay, is having a bit of a moment these days thanks to renewed diner appetite for the classic Wedge Salad. It was a ubiquitous menu item through the 1960s, and it did a great job of playing on the key strength of Iceberg lettuce – its sturdy, unwilting crunch power. By the 1970s, though, diners began to move on to more exotic greens, and Iceberg lost favor with foodies. The rise of high-end steakhouses has propelled the return of the classic wedge: cold, crunchy lettuce paired with rich, creamy blue cheese dressing.
Fresh take: Iceberg isn’t the only vegetable that works well in a wedge format, Asbell says. “A wedge of roasted red cabbage can be topped with traditional blue cheese dressing or a zingy aioli. The wedge holds its shape very well, and it’s a salad that’s appreciated by diners on low-carb or Paleo diets.”
Food historians argue about the details, but it’s most likely that this salad was created at Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, where it became a signature dish in the 1930s. If you ever want to remember all the ingredients of the classic version, just tell yourself to “EAT COBB”: egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon and blue cheese are the traditional toppings.
Fresh take: “You can add just about anything you want and still call it a Cobb Salad,” Asbell says. “Just remember that it works best if you layer contrasting colors next to each other. Try a diagonal layout, or a vertically layered one, for visual interest.”
T. Marzetti® Foodservice has The Original Caesar Dressing created by Mr. Caesar Cardini. It’s a great base for chefs who want to create their own version of a Caesar House Specialty.
Marzetti® Clean Label dressings provide imaginative, healthy flavor and bring classic salads up-to-date.
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