Caesar salad has nothing to do with the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. It was the twentieth-century innovation of Italian immigrant Caesar Cardini, who made the original salad for a group of Hollywood actors. The salad was said to contain coddled eggs, lemon juice, olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, salt, and pepper. There were no anchovies. Here is my twist on this classic, which contains poached eggs and thin Parmesan wafers. Use hearts of romaine; the inner leaves are necessary for the great crunch of this salad. This is a quick, impressive, complete light supper or lunch dish combining protein, vegetables, and fiber.
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 anchovies in salt, rinsed (Optional)
4 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste
Coarse black pepper to taste
4 cups hearts of romaine lettuce, washed, spun dry, and torn into pieces
4 large eggs
Extra grated Parmigiano cheese for sprinkling
Place a nonstick 8-inch skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Spread 1/4 cup of the cheese into a 3-inch diameter circle in the pan. Cook the cheese until it begins to bubble and brown around the edges. Carefully slip a metal spatula under the cheese and remove it to a plate lined with paper towels. Make 3 more cheese circles.
In a small bowl mash the anchovies with a fork and combine them with the mayonnaise and lemon juice. (Or eliminate the anchovies.) Test for saltiness; if you like more, add it.
Place the lettuce in a salad bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing and arrange on each of 4 salad plates. Place a cheese round at the edge of each plate. Set aside.
Fill a 1-quart pot half full with water and bring it to a boil; reduce the heat and allow the water to come back to a simmer.
Crack each egg separately into a small bowl. Slip them carefully, 1 at a time, into the water and poach gently for 2 minutes or until the egg white is set. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon. Place the egg in the center of the salad greens and serve immediately.
Note: To save time, keep a plastic container of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a bag of washed and dried lettuce in the refrigerator.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA PRONTO by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2005.
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