When I was eleven, I found myself at a lunch with two teenage girls that I looked up to. I wanted to be just like them, so naturally, when the waiter came around to take our orders, I was so grateful I could hear what they were having first. The brunette, Bronwyn, turned to the waiter and smiled, "A Caesar Salad, please. With extra anchovies."
I was shocked. Could I copy that order? Would it be too obvious? Who in the world demanded extra anchovies? I thought everyone ordered Caesar Salad without anchovies. I chickened out and ordered a grilled vegetable sandwich.
But that anchovy remark stuck with me (I still remember it sixteen years later!). I sat there entranced as Bronwyn sucked down whole anchovy filets with her wide, carefree grin. And I knew at that moment that, like tea and tomatoes before them, I would force myself to eat anchovies until I absolutely adored them.
We've talked about the biology and gastronomy of the anchovy, but now, let's talk about the reputation of the anchovy.
How many times have we heard someone say, "Oh, no. I just don't like anchovies." Yes, anchovies are distinct, but they are also inimitable. They can be layered from a subtle nutty background in a garlic and chili pasta to just plain sucked down in the flesh.
They are truly what defines a Secret Ingredient. As with dark chocolate-braised meat, they add a profound note that most of us cannot quite place. Tell the table that the great flavor comes from the much-maligned anchovy, and eyes will widen. Jaws will drop. And indisputably, you will, like Bronwyn, have made converts.
This Caesar salad is my favorite spinach-laden recipe. Cover the romaine hearts with a latticed fence of anchovy, and you'll have Bronwyn's California Caesar from all those years ago.
Green Caesar Salad
- 1/2 to 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 6 filets of anchovy packed in olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup light or extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
- 1 handful baby spinach
- 1/4 stale baguette, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 romaine heart, quartered
In a mini food processor, whiz together the garlic, mustard, egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, lemon juice, spinach, and pepper. Then stream in the 1/4 cup oil. Decant to a bowl, and stir in the cheese.
Make the croutons by tossing the bread and 2 tablespoons oil in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Crisp until hard and golden.
Serve the salad as wedges. Spoon the dressing over it. Scatter over the croutons, and dust with extra Romano cheese.