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This wondrous salad, with all its tableside showmanship by waiters, became a sensation in America soon after its invention. To many, including myself, this is the king of salads. It was probably the first 'main course' salad, and topped with chicken or fish is truly a main course. Created in the 1920s, it has not only outlasted other 'classics' from the period but has grown in popularity ever since.

The most likely, and most accepted, story of its creation has Caesar (Cesar) Cardini, a restaurant owner and chef in Tijuana, Mexico (sometimes referred to as an Italian immigrant) preparing it for a group of Hollywood movie stars, after a long weekend party in the 1920s. (Some have pinpointed it to 1924; at least one story says is was a group travelling with the Prince of Wales on his tour of North America). Their departure was delayed by morning rain, supplies at the restaurant were running low after the weekend, and he had to whip up a meal for the group before their return to Hollywood (or it was late one night as some stories go). Created on the spur of the moment with leftover ingredients. (Although several California restaurants claim to have invented it, few give credit to their stories).

The original contained Romaine (Cos) lettuce, coddled eggs, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, salt and pepper. No anchovies. Almost everyone agrees on this. No one really knows when the anchovies got in, but I feel the salad is a little flat without them. The anchovies should be mashed in as the dressing is made, so even those who dislike anchovies will enjoy this salad. (Dry or Dijon mustard and wine vinegar (red or white) are also frequently added ingredients).

Caesar salad is best when made fresh: freshly squeezed lemon juice, freshly mashed garlic cloves, freshly ground black pepper, fresh garlic croutons, and freshly grated cheese. The egg should be coddled, but a raw egg can be used. Our slight variation here at Blue Heaven Restaurant is to use key lime juice instead of lemon juice.

An acceptable dressing can also be made using tofu instead of the raw or coddled egg, if you have concern about salmonella. This should be made in a food processor to completely incorporate the tofu.

In the late 1990's, Caesar salads were made illegal in California, by a new health law banning the sale of any food that used raw eggs as an ingredient. Presumably there was a black market for the contraband salad.The law was soon revised and the situation remedied in 1998.

See recipe for Caesar Salad.

Chef James EhlerThis article is from Chef James Ehler of Key West, Florida.

James is a webmaster, cook, chef, writer and (like me) a self-confessed computer nerd. He is the former executive chef of Martha's Steak & Seafood Restaurant and the former Reach Hotel (both in Key West), the Hilton Hotel in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the New Bern Golf and Country Club, North Carolina.

He is now webmaster and cook at the Blue Heaven Restaurant in Key West while he works on his Food Encyclopedia (five years so far). It is well worth paying a visit to James' food reference website which is a useful resource well worth Bookmarking - to visit either website just click on their title:

The Food Reference Website
The Blue Heaven Restaurant, Key West, Florida

© James T. Ehler, 2001
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