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The Original Alex-Caesar Cardini Salad

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

In the early 1970s one of the best-loved restaurateurs in Mexico, Alex Cardini Sr., died. He had started in the restaurant business in Italy at the age of ten, and by his late teens he had worked in some of the most distinguished restaurants in Europe. As an ace pilot in the Italian air force, he was decorated for his courage and daring during World War 1. In 1926 Alex Sr. joined his brother Caesar in Tijuana, where Caesar had a thriving restaurant business and where he had invented a famous salad dressing. Using this dressing and a unique combination of other ingredients, Alex invented his salad in honor of the pilots of Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego. First known as Aviator’s Salad, it then became popularly known and copied as Caesar, but I shall call it as it should be called: Alex-Caesar Cardini Salad. A few months before he died, I had one of those long and wonderful lunches with the Cardini sons and their friends. We talked for hours about the rare and fascinating things in Mexican food, and Alex Sr. prepared his salad for us.

Serves6

Cooking Methodbaking

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseappetizer, side dish

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturecrisp, garlicky, salty, savory

Type of Dishsalad

Ingredients

  • 10 romaine lettuce leaves, approximately
  • 6 half-inch (1.5 cm) rounds of stale french bread
  • ¼ cup (65 ml) olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 1 large egg, raw
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup (65 ml) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash the lettuce, spin dry, wrap in a dry towel, and set aside in the refrigerator to crisp.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Put the bread slices onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake until crisp 20 minutes. Brush with 1½ tablespoons of the oil and return to the oven to brown-about 10 minutes.

  3. Crush together the garlic and the anchovies and gradually add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread this mixture onto the bread slices and set aside.

  4. Cover the egg with boiling water and cook for 1 minute; the white should be opaque and just setting.

  5. Put the lettuce leaves into the salad bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and toss with the egg and bread until well incorporated.

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It must have been at the end of Diana Kennedy's life when she may have not been remembering very well... there are no anchovies in the original Caesar salad, according to my Grandfather who dined their regularly when visiting Mexico to gamble. Julia Child also had the original and no anchovies either ( and she was a lover of the little fish, and a friend of Theresa , the creators daughter)... anyway just leave out the anchovies if you want an authentic salad or you can do the New York City version and add them... this recipe is very good if you bring it back to the orginal.

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