Jackson recently spent a few days at a friend’s cottage, and when he walked in the door at the end of the weekend he declared that he’d had the best Caesar salad ever while he was away.
He was quick to comment that he didn’t want to offend me, of course, but thought I should know that this particular salad was far superior to the one I make. I’m not overly competitive, but naturally I needed to know what it was about this specific dish that won his heart. Apparently, it was so good he had to have three servings for dinner, something that never happens at home. He readily launched into a detailed description of the crisp romaine, shredded Parmesan cheese, and toasty croutons. Then he paused and said, “I’m pretty sure the salad was made at Costco, because I saw the packaging.”
Instantly, I felt better. I’ve quickly learned that while most adults prefer homemade everything, the same can’t always be said for kids, including my own, evidently. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a young guy turn up his nose at homemade mac n’ cheese or my mom-made pizza because he’s used to eating the store-bought boxed variety instead. When you’re accustomed to technicolour powdered cheese and take-out food, instead of the kind that comes from a home kitchen, it’s hard to make the switch to the handmade variety. I get it. Kids like to eat what’s familiar, and studies have shown that no food tastes as good as mom’s, because it’s made with love no matter how it gets put together.
So, here’s the Caesar salad I poured my own love into in an effort to win Jackson’s heart again. I added a little grilled chicken breast, some hard-boiled egg, crumbled bacon, and crisp croutons. With a few veggies scattered over the top – avocado, tomato, and cucumber – this quickly became a Caesar-Cobb mash-up and was a hit for all. I hear it still isn’t a good as the one you can buy at Costco, but if you happen to like homemade salads I might suggest giving this one a try.
P.S. We eat a lot of salads for dinner, but it wasn’t always that way. Here’s how I get my boys to eat salad, and 9 tips for making kale salad (I converted a kale hater into an evangelical kale lover!) that you don’t want to miss.
Kale Cobb Caesar
I used kale in this salad because it’s what I had on hand and my kids are totally down with it, but feel free to use romaine instead if that’s what you prefer.
- 1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, and finely chopped
- ¼ cup Caesar salad dressing (use store-bought or see below for recipe)
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- 2 cups cooked chopped or shredded chicken breasts or thighs (no bones)
- 4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 2 mini cucumbers, sliced
- 2 cups croutons (see below for recipe)
- Optional: Grated Parmesan or crumbled blue cheese, for garnish
1. Place the kale in a large salad bowl and drizzle the Caesar dressing over the top. Using your fingers, ‘massage’ the vinaigrette into the kale leaves, evenly coating them with the sauce; let sit for a minimum of 15 minutes.
2. Divide kale evenly between the plates and top each bed of greens with the remaining salad ingredients, scattering them equally over each salad. Add more dressing, if desired, and top with cheese, if using.
Simple Egg-Free Caesar Salad Dressing
Makes approx. 1/2 cup
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon anchovy paste
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 6 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
1. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a mini food processor and process until smooth. (If you don’t have a food processor, mince the garlic and place in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until combined.) Store in the fridge in a lidded container for up to five days.
Makes approx. 2 cups
- ½ slightly stale baguette
- ¼ cup of olive oil or melted butter (or a combination of the two)
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (I like to use my toaster over for this) and thinly slice the bread into ½-inch thick slices. Cut each slice into 4-6 cubes of about the same size.
2. Drizzle a little of your fat onto your baking sheet. Add the bread cubes, placing them close together in a single layer. Drizzle the remaining fat on top, add a heavy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and toss lightly to coat.
3. Spread the croutons out so that they are no longer touching and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the tray, toss the croutons and bake for an additional 5 – 8 minutes or until they are a golden brown and crisp as you desire them.
4. When done to your liking, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.