The Real Deal (with eggs and anchovies) Classic Caesar Salad with Sirloin Steak

I’ve been on a recent obsession with classic caesar salads with anchovies and all.  I know some would turn their noses to anchovies, but I love those little suckers.  Salty and fishy.  Yum.  It’s the anchovies that make the caesar salad dressing.  Not the shaved parmesan.  Not the croutons.  It’s the anchovies.  I think it’s blasphemy to call a caesar salad dressing when the little fishies are omitted.  I just doesn’t taste the same.  Caesar salads are nostalgic to me.  It reminds me of our days living in the Parnassus library at the UCSF campus studying pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmcotherapeutics.  We would be the first ones there and the last ones to close down the library.  And like any library, we weren’t allowed to eat there (at least not to their knowledge).  We definitely had our fair share of Pringles chips, coca-cola flavored gummies, boba tea, sodas, coffee, chocolate, chips, and more.  When we were finally craving real food , we walked down to Pluto’s on Irving and 8th Avenue, and I always ordered the steak caesar salad.  The steak was over cooked and tough, but the dressing.  Wow.  And when the croutons soaked up all the dressing at the bottom.  Oh em gee.

Classic Caesar Salad with Steak

1 teaspoon garlic, smashed into a paste
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, mashed into a paste with fork
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 large raw or coddled egg yolks
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices, rinsed, and dried very well

If you can’t stomach the raw egg component of this recipe, try making a coddled egg, which essentially is an egg cooked briefly in boiling water. The taste of coddled egg yolks is similar to that of a raw egg. It’s just not as raw as a raw egg 🙂 To make a coddled egg, place whole eggs into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 minute. Crack eggs and separate whites from yolks.

Mince the garlic, and then sprinkle a little salt over the minced garlic on your cutting board. With your chef’s knife in hand, press and crush the garlic with the knife on an angle. The salt draws out the liquid from the garlic, but also acts as an abrasive to mash the garlic into a paste. Continue this until a paste is formed.

Finely chop or mince the anchovy filets. Mash the anchovies into a fine paste using the back of a fork. Continue doing this until you have a smooth anchovy paste to work with.

In a large bowl, whisk together garlic paste, anchovy paste, and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire, dijon mustard, and egg yolks. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing has completely emulsified. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, then whisk until completely combined.

To serve, plate the romaine lettuce and croutons. Drizzle dressing overtop each serving, then sprinkle liberally with Parmigiano-Reggiano.


Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce

I first discovered salted caramels a few years ago while watching the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network.  It was love at first sight.  The salted caramels, that is.  Not Ina Garten, even though she rocks the Kazbah.  I was immediately intrigued when she said “salted caramels.”  I had never heard of this phenomenon.  But I just knew it was going to be a wonderful thing.  Savory and sweet wrapped up into one little morsel of goodness.  Yum.  It couldn’t get any better than that. (Well, actually it can because I discovered maple bacon caramels a few years later.)  I searched for the recipe, bookmarked it, and waited for the perfect time to make these little treats.  I guess I didn’t really need an excuse, but I was sort of stalling because I was intimidated by the whole candy-making process.  I read numerous reviews from those who attempted the recipe, and was terrified that the caramels were going to be either too soft or too hard.  But they were perfect when I finally had the opportunity to make them.  And when I popped one of those salty, buttery, creamy caramels in my mouth, I came to the realization that… life is good.

So now I have an obsession with anything salted caramels… especially salted caramel sauce.  Ooooooh-weeeeeee, that stuff is good!  This stuff will make anything taste better.  Drizzle it over your favorite desserts and/or fruits, and you got yourself a flavor party in your mouth.

Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce (adapted from Cork and Rind)

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel (reduce to 1/2 teaspoon if it’s too salty for your liking)

In a DEEP saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium-high heat. I know it’s tempting, but do not stir the sugar-water mixture. Just swirl the pan to mix. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes until the caramel is a warm amber brown color (observe color changing process below). Do not walk away while the sugar is boiling. Once the color starts to change, it doesn’t take long from deep amber to a not-so-pleasant burnt sugar taste.

In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.

When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – it will boil up violently (this is why a deep saucepan is necessary). Once the bubbles subside, whisk until the cream has been incorporated into the sugar mixture.

Use right away, or allow to cool to room temperature and pour into a container for storage. Caramel sauce can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks. Before using, either warm the sauce or allow it to come to room temperature.

Calories per tablespoon: 100 (approximate)

Cool and Creamy Greek Tzatziki

I’m turning 32 tomorrow.  Thirty-two.  This means I’ll be eight years from turning 40.  I had no qualms turning 30.  None whatsoever because the 30s are the new 20s, or so they say.  It was a piece of cake.  Well, aside from freaking out about waking up someday very soon with wrinkles.  The day of my 30th birthday, we made a trip to Origins to replenish our day cream.  I walked in with the intention of just purchasing the one item, but as soon as I hit the door I immediately asked for the skin care line for reducing wrinkles.  The woman who was assisting us looked at like I was crazy.  Well, maybe I am a little neurotic, but that’s besides the point.  I also think the salesperson that I was just joking about the restorative anti-wrinkle stuff.  So she instead took me over to the preventative anti-wrinkle creams.  My partner told her I was having an early mid-life crisis and the salesperson soon realized that I was serious.  So over one hundred dollars later, we walked out of the store with preventative AND restorative anti-wrinkle face and eye creams.  I’m just trying to be proactive rather than reactive about wrinkles.  And of course I would like to look as young as my Mom does at the age of 55.  Sorry.  I just totally went off topic.  Getting back to turning 32…

I think turning 30 was easy breezy because I felt very accomplished in my twenties… first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in my immediate family, graduated with a doctorate degree from one of the best pharmacy schools in the Nation, completed a residency, scored the perfect job, and found my soulmate.  But as I start inching my way into my mid-30s, I’m feeling unaccomplished and unsatisfied with my life.  I need more.  I want more.  But I don’t know what it is yet.  I keep toying with the idea of something culinary.  I know this is going to sound really silly, absurd, and far-reaching, but I keep imagining myself owning and operating a food truck.  I have this romantic idea of leading a nomadic lifestyle with a food truck.  I have the concept already played out in my head, but just need more money and a food truck 🙂  Another idea that might be less expensive, but equally as fun is starting up a food catering business.  Something small, but fun.  I recently attended an event a few weeks ago that was catered by one of the local catering companies, and the food was just no bueno.  I spent my entire evening thinking about how *I* could have done a better catering job with the food and beverages.  Sigh.  All I know is that I need to start brainstorming soon, because I’m worried I’m going to turn 40 with no accomplishments in my 30s.

On a lighter note, I was craving a lulu burger with tzatziki sauce.  And so that is what I made.

Cool and Creamy Greek Tzatziki

2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced into a paste
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large English cucumber, seeded
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Strain the yogurt by pouring it into a colander containing a coffee filter for about an hour to drain out excess water from the yogurt.

While the Greek yogurt is straining, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Slice cucumbers, place into a colander, and sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Allow the cucumbers to sit for about 20 minutes to draw out excess water from the cucumbers. After 20 minutes, rinse cucumbers with water, and squeeze to get rid of any residual excess water. Drain well, and wipe dry with a paper towel.

Put cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, and dill into a food processor, and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Pour this mixture into the yogurt, and mix well until everything has combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking (I usually like it a little on the peppery side). Cover the bowl, and allow the flavors to marry in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Serve as a dip with pita bread or chips, or with your favorite Mediterranean grilled meat. I spread (by the spoonfuls) the tzatziki into a pita pocket with lula patties, tomato, lettuce, and some feta cheese. It was the perfect pita pocket sandwich for lunch today!