Muddy Caesar (Salad, that Is)
Ah, summer. How I remember the long, languid, carefree days infused with sunshine. The kind of brightness that shimmers in mid-afternoon air, making the trees, the leaves, even the parked cars look as if they’re trembling with sheer joy. Easy living, with no boots or jackets or scarves or sweaters. Being able to think, “oh, I forgot to buy lemons,” and–just like that–grabbing your car keys and heading straight into the car, just as you were, and you’re gone. The easy pace of traffic, whittled to a third of its usual volume as everyone is off to the country or busy playing tourist in other cities when the weather is fair. Easy cooking, with juicy summer fruits and crisp, exotic greens and–as often as you can stand it–ice cream.
Ah, yes, I remember it well. . . easy, breezy, beautiful
Cover Girl SUMMER. What a shame it refuses to reveal its shiny face just yet in Toronto (another day of rain. Sob).
Now, I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea about me or anything, but in summers past, one of my favorite pleasures was a good, cold, frosty gin and tonic. While I was never much of an alcohol drinker (I might have a glass of wine with dinner once or twice a month), when it came to summer, I loved sitting out in the sun on the patio with a big book and an equally big G&T. During the solstice season, the HH and I have a tradition of heading north for a long weekend. For the past 14 years, every summer we’ve taken the 2-1/2 hour trek up Highway 400 to our favorite country resort.* Once there, we spend the days soaking up the rays by the pool, reading all the books we couldn’t get to during the rest of the year, filling out the massive Globe and Mail crossword, and drinking gin and tonics.
It was bliss, I tell you.
(“Mum, what’s a gin and tonic? Because if we have to slurp one up to spend time in that pool, we’re on it!”)
Because of the ACD, however, I haven’t partaken of any kind of alcoholic beverage for over 2-1/2 years now. No wine with dinner. No Kalhua in my coffee (and no coffee, either, for that matter). No G&Ts by the resort pool. And, most certainly, no Bloody Caesars.
Perhaps that’s why I named today’s salad “Muddy” Caesar–the name brought to mind that erstwhile summertime cocktail, and the thought of summer was enough on its own to perk up my day. Or maybe it’s because the dressing resembles mud; a little gray, a splash of brown, a dollop of clay. Or, maybe, I just liked the sound of it.
Whatever the case, this is a great summer salad. Along with fresh fruits, homemade ice cream, frozen lattes and (in days of yore) gin and tonics, salads are staple summer fare in the DDD household. In fact, I’m sure that for many of us, the word “summer” is tantamount to “salad.” Not only are they quick to prepare and abundant this time of year, they are raw, which means no added heat on those steamy July afternoons; they are light, which means you can get out and play that much faster after eating them (or go swimming without that 30-minute wait period your parents always told you was essential); and they are jam-packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that will provide all the free-radical fighting and nutrient density you need to frolick all day long in the sun. And while I wasn’t a huge salad fan as a child, I have come to really appreciate the veggie-and-dressing mix in recent years.
I’ve been aiming for a lower-fat diet the past few weeks (anything to vanquish those crazy extra pounds), so I’ve eliminated added oils in many of my recipes. This dressing worked out beautifully; no oil added, or needed, with avocado providing all the creaminess you can imagine. The usual pungency of Caesar dressing is achieved with the addition of a few cured black olives (thereby creating the salad’s muddy countenance), and the combination of garlic and lemon juice provides some bite and tang as you’d expect from this classic dish. Topped with ground pine nuts to simulate grated parmesan, you’ve got a Caesar facsimile that will please everyone.
Now, if only the weather would cooperate, you could eat this out by the pool, beverage of choice in hand.
*sadly, the place been slowly going downhill for years, and last summer was the worst. We’ve decided we can’t go back. Anyone know of a great resort north of Toronto?
[I snapped the photo before sprinkling with pine nuts. . .but did remember to add them before eating.]
Muddy Caesar Salad
This dressing is remarkably thick and creamy, even without added oil. The zucchini provide substance and moisture, but you won’t taste it in the final product. I haven’t used croutons here to avoid extra starches, but feel free to sprinkle the final salad with croutons of your choice for a more traditional Caesar-like salad.
For the Salad:
1 small head romaine lettuce, torn in bite-sized chunks
1 medium tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 green onions, white and light green parts, sliced
For the Dressing:
1/2 small zucchini (about 4 ounces or 110 g), thickly sliced
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and cut in chunks
2 small cloves garlic or 1 large clove
3 Tbsp (45 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar (or use more lemon juice for ACD Stage 1)
5-10 drops plain liquid stevia, to your taste
1 Tbsp (15 ml) mellow white or yellow miso
8 oil-cured black olives, pitted
1/4-1/2 cup (60-120 ml) water, as needed
1/4 cup (60 ml) ground pine nuts
Make the salad: place all ingredients in a large salad bowl; set aside while you mix up the dressing.
Make the dressing: Place all ingredients except pine nuts in a powerful blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add water to reach desired texture (it should be thick and creamy, like a thick sour cream). Spoon about half the dressing over the salad to start; toss until all the leaves are coated in dressing. You may add more if you prefer a more thickly dressed salad; if not, store remaining dressing in a closed jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Sprinkle with ground pine nuts before servings. Makes 4-6 servings.
Last Year at this Time: Green Monster Muffins (gluten-free, ACD friendly)
Two Years Ago: Mocha Cereal Cinnamon Muffins (not ACD friendly; not GF)
Three Years Ago: Dolmades, Deconstructed (Mediterranean Rice Casserole) (for ACD, omit raisins and use apple cider vinegar)