The ides of March are talking 'et tu Caeser'
Hello, my name is Kate Valdovinos, and welcome to Gainesville Greens, my contribution to the Gainesville Lunch out Blog. I am looking forward to sharing the green side of lunch opportunities with you! When I discussed the idea for writing this column with the GLOB Master, his focus was for me to cover the lunchtime salad scene in Gainesville. In fact, his idea was to call this column "Gainesville's Salad Lady." That was a good idea, and I do love salads, but I think there is going to be more to Gainesville Greens than arugula and croutons. Don't be surprised to find different kinds of interesting, green subject matter wrapped around your GLOB salad fork.
I love traditional salads. When I'm at any restaurant and I'm feeling picky or just unadventurous, they are always there for me as a go-to when I need them. Like a local restaurant you've been to a million times, they can be comforting and fulfilling.
However it can be fun to put a spin on these traditional salads, especially the Caesar. And they don't have to be the basic Caesar dressing + romaine lettuce + croutons + optional chicken. I've explored many Caesar salads in Gainesville and picked out a few to talk about in this week's Gainesville Greens.
According to the KitchenProject.com website, "Caesar (Cesare) Cardini Caesar was born near Lago Maggiore, Italy, in 1896; he and his brother Alex emigrated to the U.S. after World War I. The Cardini's lived in San Diego but operated a restaurant in Tijuana to circumvent Prohibition. According to Caesar's daughter Rosa, on July 4th 1924 the salad was created on a busy weekend at Caesar's Restaurant. It is said that Caesar was short of supplies and didn't want to disappoint the customers so he concocted this salad with what was on hand. To add a flair to this he prepared it at the table."
My favorite spin on the classic Caesar was the O!O Garden Grill's Wasabi Caesar Salad, image right. I never thought I would appreciate spiciness on a Caesar but this was excellent. It went perfect with the flavor of the Caesar by toning down the tanginess and adding a warm spicy taste. I would have loved to see an ahi tuna option or the addition of other ingredients like avocado and cucumber to go with the wasabi dressing while still saying a "Caesar salad."
Another spin on the classic Caesar salad was the Jones Eastside Jones Caesar Salad, image right. In addition to the traditional Caesar ingredients, they added red onions, diced tomatoes and roasted potatoes. I liked this because it was still the Caesar but stepping slightly out of the realm of normal. While it wasn't the perfect Caesar alternative, it had some great ingredients and took it in the right direction. I think making the dressing creamier to accommodate the richness of the potatoes would have been neat to taste.
Another Caesar that I had in Gainesville that didn't stand out as much but was a good attempt was the Top's Vegan Caesar Salad, image right. The dressing had garlic in it and an extra tangy taste, which went really well. Fresh veggies like tomatoes or even banana peppers could have helped that dressing spread even further.
I'd love to see more creative spins on Caesar salads in Gainesville. Perhaps a Caesar with optional root vegetables instead of chicken, or some buttery noodles in replace of the croutons. The Caesar salad is so basic and simple that it begs to be changed with different and flavorful ingredients.
If anyone would like to recommend a Caesar salad for me to try for Kate's Gainesville Salad Blog or if you have other ideas for spins on the classic Caesar, please comment in the GLOB comment window below this column!
Speaking of recommendations it's time for the 'Kate the Salad Lady's March Salad of the Month.' What could be more season changing, end of the winter, green, fresh, and tangy than the O!O Garden Grill's Wasabi Caesar Salad mentioned above
Kate Valdovinos is the Editor of Kate's Gainesville Salad Blog and will be discussing with GLOBers all things leafy, green, and healthy with a large dollop of yummy.
Latest from Mike S. GLOB Master
Great column Kate! Cesar salad, in my book, is a poor excuse for a salad because I think the essence of a salad should be variety of ingredients - BUT the dressing redeems it. I do LOVE Cesar dressing. In fact one of my favorite dressings is Paul Newman's non-creamy Cesar. I could just about drink that! I have used it on many salads for potluck and people ALWAYS rave. The easiest and tastiest potluck salad in the world is tomatoes, cucumbers and optional green onions, avocado, and/or artichokes all smothered in PN's vinaigrette Cesar dressing. Another great use of this dressing is as a base or 'pre-dressing" before using mayo or Miracle Whip dressing on potatoes or pasta for salads, especially if you put the dressing on while the carb is warm. Aside from the great flavor, I think it keeps the carb from getting mushy. !