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Caesar Salad with Pecorino and Black Pepper Croutons

Pungent, peppery dressing, crunchy croutons, cool, crisp romaine. For a sophisticated alternative, Lambert suggests grilling romaine quarters just until surfaces are seared, then sprinkled with dressing and croutons on top.

Croutons:
Half a baguette
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Seasoning salt, optional, to taste, see recipe
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 ounce (2 to 4 tablespoons) grated Pecorino Romano (Lambert used locatelli)

Caesar Salad dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 to 6 anchovy fillets, with the oil from the tin
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 very fresh egg yolk (use pasteurized if raw egg is a problem in your area)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and chilled
4 ounces, (about 1/2 cup) Pecorino Romano or Pepato (Sicilian Pecorino with peppercorns) shaved in long, wide strips with a vegetable peeler

Black pepper croutons: Cut baguette into thick slices about 1/2-inch thick, then cut the slices into quarters. There should be about 4 cups of bread cubes. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the bread. Stir and toss for 3 to 4 minutes so that all sides are coated with oil and beginning to brown. Sprinkle with seasoning salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic. Continue stirring and tossing the bread cubes for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until brown and crunchy. Remove the skillet from the heat, immediately sprinkle the Pecorino Romano on top and toss to coat the croutons with the cheese. Set aside and let cool. The croutons may be stored in an airtight container if they are not used immediately.

Caesar Salad Dressing: Combine garlic, anchovies and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Add the egg yolk, salt and pepper and blend. Drizzle in the oil slowly through the feed tube in a steady stream, while the processor is running. Process until emulsified and thickened. Use immediately or refrigerate.

Wash the lettuce and drain in a colander. Dry, using a spinner or dish towels. Set aside and refrigerate. Near serving time, tear lettuce into 1- to 2-inch pieces and place in a large salad bowl. Toss with the dressing until leaves are well coated. Add croutons and shaved Pecorino and toss again. Serve on chilled salad plates. Makes 1/2 cup dressing, 4 cups croutons, to serve 4.

Thursday, October 18, 2001

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