Fresh Pesto Caesar Salad

It is finally March in the Carolina’s, which means that Mother Nature is starting to show her beautiful signs of spring!   Daffodils and pansies are in bloom, and day lilies are pushing their green leaves out of the warming soil.  After all of the grey days of the “uary” months (as my husband and I call them . . . Jan”uary” and Febr”uary”), we welcome the hints of green that begin to show us hope for spring and the coming warmer days ahead.  We spent the weekend cleaning out all of our gardens, tilling and preparing the soil, and mulching our flower beds.
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To some this seems to be nothing but work.
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Yet for me, it’s just a joy to be outside again after feeling confined indoors for months.
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Spring is simply my favorite time of year!
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the colors of vibrant blue and yellow just captivate the eyes!
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joyful, happy, yellow daffodils announce springtime
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and the happy faces of blue/purple pansies that show off this rarest of garden colors!
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“Green” is also this month’s theme for the March Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club.  A perfectly timed theme!  I chose to make a lighter version of the classic Caesar Salad and was wondering throughout the process how this salad could be ‘outstanding’ as described on the Cooking Light web-site.
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Oh wow, does this salad live up to its definition!  After cleaning my salad plate, I ate the rest of the salad out of the mixing bowl!
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My husband had one piece of lettuce and immediately turned up his nose and said, “Ugh, I taste those little anchovies, but I suppose I could enjoy this.”  He just dislikes anchovies like no other!
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. . . poor guy!  I just don’t know what I’m going to do with him sometimes!
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But this salad is just incredible, despite it’s reduction in calories thanks to the ingenious folks of Cooking Light magazine . . .  and I’ll make it over and over again!  I made a few adjustments by adding a little more olive oil to thin down the dressing and added one more clove of minced garlic (I mean, “why not?”).  I also used olive oil-based mayonnaise instead of canola mayonnaise.  After all, this is an Italian salad!
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Take a fresh loaf of Italian bread
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cut about 4 – 5 slices 1″ wide, then cut into 1″ cubes
place on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven
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toast for 10 minutes
(watch them carefully so the bread cubes do not burn)
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toss the warm toasted bread cubes with the olive oil
I also added some ‘Tuscan” Italian-blend seasonings
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grate fresh Parmigiana-Regiano cheese
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prepare dressing with olive oil-based mayonnaise
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using pesto and the following fresh ingredients.
I freeze tiny little containers of basil pesto every summer
(click on basil pestofor the link)
this holds about 3Tbsp. of pesto . . . just perfect!
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squeeze 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
mince 2 cloves of fresh garlic
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in a medium mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients
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add anchovy paste, Dijon mustard, Worcesteshire sauce,
lemon juice, and minced garlic
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place freshly cut romaine lettuce in a large salad bowl
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add the dressing
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toss well
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add the toasted bread cubes, toss well
serve on pretty plates
garnish with grated Parmigiana-Regiano cheese
and anchovy fillets
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Fresh Pesto Caesar Salad

What You Need:

  • 3 oz. Italian bread, sliced, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil (I doubled this, you need it!)
  • Italian-blend seasonings (I added this)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 ounces Parmigiana-Regiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise (I used olive oil-based mayonnaise)
  • 3 Tbsp. refrigerated pesto (I used my own home-made pesto)
  • 4 tsp. water
  • 2 - 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (my addition)
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I doubled this to two cloves)
  • 12 cups torn romaine lettuce
  • anchovy slices for garnish (my addition)
  • freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste (my addition)

Instructions

  • Take the Italian bread and cut about 4 – 5 slices 1" wide, then cut into 1" cubes.
  • Place on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven.
  • Toast for 10 minutes (watch them carefully so the bread cubes do not burn).
  • Toss the warm toasted bread cubes with the olive oil.
  • I also added some ‘Tuscan” Italian-blend seasoning to the warm oiled bread crumbs.
  • Prepare dressing with olive oil-based mayonnaise.
  • Combine grated cheese, mayonnaise, and next 8 ingredients (including the pesto through garlic) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  • Combine croutons and lettuce in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle dressing mixture over lettuce mixture; toss to coat.
  • Place individual portions of the salad on each plate.
  • Top each serving with 1 tablespoon shaved cheese.
  • Crack fresh black pepper and sea salt all over to taste!

Here are some other delicious salads that I have prepared that I know that you will enjoy:

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh Roz your garden gives me hope that spring is almost here.Rain is falling here today and melting the snow so I guess that’s a good thing! I could just eat your whole salad with those crunchy croutons, it looks and sounds so good!

    • says

      Spring is so finicky Marie, but I love it all the same! Be patient, I’ll be wishing I was in Chi-town when it gets super hot down here!

  2. says

    Oh! I’m glad you made it to the table! Hurray for a great Caesar salad! I am a ‘late in life’ anchovy fan … it’s taken me a long time to fall in love with that salty, fishy flavour! If EVER, though, there was a perfect spot for these little fish, it’s right here in this bed of greens!

    • says

      I was a few days late but I’d hate to miss out on the party and the fun . . . I LOVE your fresh greens salad and vinaigrette Susan! I’ll have to try it as well! What a great theme this month, huh?

  3. says

    Your salad looks as if it’s fit for Julius Caesar =) Love the divine greens and homemade croutons and pesto…And the dish has got to be that much tastier gazing at those gorgeous daffodils and pansies. Thank you for sharing this recipe, Roz.

    • says

      Oh thanks Kim, it isn’t my recipe, even though I doctored it up a bit. It is a huge winner in my opinion! Your recipes are always a delight for me to read and enjoy too!

    • says

      I hope you like it Jessica . . . it’s very ‘anchovy’! I loved it, but of course, my anchovy-hating husband wanted just some regular Ranch dressing!

  4. says

    Looks delicious Roz and I could go for it right now for breakfast. The best Caesar dressing I ever ate had too much anchovy flavor for everyone else, so I’d like the extras for garnishment.

    • says

      I’m with you on that one Larry! The last restaurant that my mother and I ordered a Caesar salad, we asked for extra anchovies and received two! It was disgraceful, I mean they don’t cost THAT much to be so stingy on a salad that absolutely requires anchovies!

    • says

      I agree with all of your hurrahs Linda! It’s a great season to celebrate with garden fresh salads among the colorful daffodils! Enjoy this with your pesto!

  5. says

    ahh, yes, Spring is THE favourite season for many, and I love it too although I am a huge fan Autumn too, all those colours and the promise of Christmas too… but this is a glorious collection of salads and I adore the pesto idea here too… love the blog and happy to be a follower!

  6. says

    I’m pathetic. My pesto from last summer is gone. Snow is coming Friday. And Sunday and Monday and I want the whole shebang. Please send your garden, pesto and salad a.s.a.p. to this pathetic soul. Your photos of spring and salad just opened my eyes!

    • says

      If I could I’d send you my garden dear Claudia! Pretty soon, I’m going to wish that I was in Minnesota with you when it is boiling hot here in SC! And then my garden will be wilted!

  7. says

    I have come across this salad several times Roz; no idea why I have never given it a try. I just love caesar salad anchovies and all. Thank you so much for bringing it to the table.

  8. says

    I hope you try it Val . . . it’s one of the best C.L. recipes that I’ve ever made. I will make many more times I am sure! Great theme as always!

  9. says

    I’m so jealous because it’s still very much winter here, boo:( But at least I can enjoy the first sings of it through your photos. The salad looks amazing! Great recipe too.

    • says

      Angie, it will soon be warm where you live, and I will soon be wishing that I live near you for cooler weather when it gets so hot here! Glad you enjoyed my springtime photos! A very cheerful time of year in the garden!

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