The Original Alex-Caesar Cardini Salad
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.
Total Timeunder 1 hour
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Courseappetizer, side dish
Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, tree nut free
Taste and Texturecrisp, garlicky, salty, savory
Type of Dishsalad
- 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
Wash the lettuce, spin dry, wrap in a dry towel, and set aside in the refrigerator to crisp.
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.
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.
Cover the egg with boiling water and cook for 1 minute; the white should be opaque and just setting.
Put the lettuce leaves into the salad bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and toss with the egg and bread until well incorporated.
2000 Diana Kennedy