I’ve been making a version of this salad for many years. Back in the 1990’s, we dropped the anchovy because neither of us really liked the fishy taste (or look) of it. The raw egg was not appetizing either, let alone the salmonella risk. So, it was just a matter of switching to vegan parmesan and vegan worcestershire; a snap. This is adapted from my battered old copy of Joy of Cooking, circa 1975. The main thing I learned from this cookbook was to steep the garlic in the oil, as you can see from this original excerpt below.
1 clove garlic; peeled and sliced
1/2 cup olive oil: none other
for 24 hours.
I spotted and highlighted the words “24 hours” and after making it and eating it in restaurants for years, realized that this is the key to a good Caesar salad dressing. You know how when you roast garlic, it mellows out that overly-pungent bite? Well, when you steep raw garlic in olive oil for at least 24 hours, it also mellows it out, not to the extent that roasting does, but it takes the sharp edge off it. Then your croutons are drizzled and sauteed with a bit of this mellowed out garlic oil, which renders them delicious. This is better than the many mediocre restaurant Caesar salads you and I have both had in our day. And since when did mayonnaise become part of a Caesar salad? The ones in restaurants have a mucous-looking white cast to the dressing which is not appealing! Here is a clean, classic, beautiful salad. If you do want it a tiny bit creamier, however, you can substitute prepared (from the jar) Dijon mustard instead of the dry ground mustard, with very good results. One final note is that store-bought croutons are seriously elevated by this technique, but I don’t buy any that are “Caesar” flavor because they’ve usually got a lot of garlic in them, and then there is invariably a faint stale odor and/or flavor to them. Garlic goes rancid pretty quickly. Happily, accidentally-vegan croutons are getting easier to find. And I love those triple packs of organic romaine hearts, too. Another surprise was how much better vegan Worcestershire tastes over the one with (rotting) anchovies in it. Finally, here’s a little cut-and-paste about olive oil: If you want to buy the best olive oil, look for organic extra virgin oil that is labeled “cold pressed” or, even better, “first cold pressed.” Cold pressed means that the oil was not heated over a certain temperature (usually 80 degrees Fahrenheit) during processing, thus retaining more nutrients and undergoing less degradation. First cold pressed, which is of even higher quality than cold pressed, means that the oil was made with the first pressing of the olives.
Vegan Classic Caesar Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, or 2 romaine hearts
1 to 2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed-and-chopped
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil (I like “first cold pressed”)
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard (or 1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard)
1/2 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire (such as The Wizard’s brand)
The juice from one fresh lemon, or 1.5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
1 bag (4 to 5 oz.) store-bought vegan croutons (or homemade)
1 to 2 tablespoons of vegan parmesan (there are several brands)
One or two days ahead of time, press or crush garlic to a fine consistency (I like to use a garlic press I’ve had for 15 years). It is critical for flavor to prepare the garlic oil at least 24 hours ahead.
In a small glass jar, mix pepper, salt, mustard, vegan Worcestershire, lemon juice and vinegar, and refrigerate.
Wash romaine and drain well. Wrap in a clean, lint-free dish towel and refrigerate in the crisper/vegetable drawer.
To prepare and serve:
Place 1/2 of garlic oil and all croutons in a sauce pan on low heat.
Stir croutons occasionally. Don’t allow croutons to brown too much, just get them hot and only slightly more golden, and then turn off the heat.
By the tablespoon, add some or all of the remaining garlic oil to the lemon juice mixture, and blend well. I usually don’t add all of the remaining oil, but you can. I like to use a latte frother for all salad dressings because it blends them so well that they hold together for a long time.
When ready, add a tablespoon or two of the vegan parmesan to the croutons and stir to coat.
Mix cheesy croutons and dressing with romaine, gently toss well and SERVE IMMEDIATELY. The salad will wilt if you wait!
Note: If you have leftover garlic oil, you can simply add more plain olive oil to it and extend it’s volume for other salads or recipes. It’s good to flavor pasta sauce, or to use in seitan, hummus or anything else you can think of.