Sundried Tomato Caesar Salad Dressing

This recipe is dedicated to all the do-gooders hosting gatherings who’d like to make their standby favorites, but find that something’s not vegetarian… and someone attending is. Caesar salad is one such popular crowd-pleaser that pairs well with rich, holiday fare. But the classic dressing gets its umami oomph from minced anchovies, a taboo for certain diets.

But even if you’re not particular about it one way or another, here’s a substitution that gives it a festive twist. Sundried tomatoes, with their concentrated, bright flavor, are minced in lieu of the silvery fish. Combined with fresh garlic and lemon juice, good olive oil and a yolk for thickening, it’ll do the job with flying colors, in more ways than one. Sorry, no luck here for vegans, or the otherwise egg-averse.

I was looking for a dessert, or something else to sate my lingering appetite after polishing off a plate of spaghetti recently. But sweets just weren’t what I was craving after all. It’s funny that the French prefer a crisp salad after the main course, while American traditions place it squarely before. I’m convinced that this grew out of a solution to ensure people — especially children — ate their vegetables. When you’re hungry, you just dig into whatever’s there. The French tradition assumes that you’re pacing your appetite throughout multiple courses; it’s from elite, rather than peasant-folk, origins.

Thinking of this, I scrapped the idea of ice cream and whipped up a creamy dressing for some romaine lettuce. Darned if my eating spree didn’t go out with a bang. The tickling tanginess, gnarly garlickyness, and juicy coldness killed my cravings for good that night. Salad is the new dessert.

That’s why I think you kind of need a crunchy, refreshing salad with a meal of many flavors. Whether it’s for your holiday spread or a midnight snack, this dressing is an easy fix that can — and perhaps should– be made on the fly. Whisked up fresh, the lemon will sing louder, the garlic will bite you better. And the sundried tomatoes, well, they’ll just look prettier — I went for a few thin slices to toss in the salad in addition to the chopped bits in the dressing. Incidentally, although I had a block of parmiggiano-reggiano in the fridge, waiting to top this plate with, I completely forgot to add it. It was tasty enough on its own.

Sundried Tomato Caesar Salad Dressing
(makes about 2/3 cup)

1 egg yolk (preferably at room temperature)
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2-3 sundried tomatoes, minced (oil-packed or dry are both fine)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the egg yolk, minced garlic, mustard, and 1 tablespoon of juice from the lemon in a small bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly. While whisking rapidly, pour in a few drops of the olive oil. Continue whisking, and slowly drizzle in more of the olive oil. The mixture will emulsify and appear thicker as you continue incorporating more of the olive oil. After about half the olive oil has been incorporated, add the sundried tomatoes. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired. Add another small squeeze of lemon juice at a time to taste, if desired. Continue whisking in the rest of the olive oil until all is incorporated. Use immediately or store covered and chilled for up to 2 days.

Cost Calculator
(for 2/3 cup dressing)

1 egg yolk (at $5/dozen): $0.20
1 lemon: $0.50
2 cloves garlic: $0.20
1 teaspoon mustard: $0.25
2-3 sundried tomatoes: $0.50
1/2 cup olive oil: $0.75

Total: $2.40

Health Factor

Five brownie points: It’s hard to judge this one, since it’s the flavoring agent for healthy, fresh vegetables. There’s a bit of cholesterol from the egg yolk and plenty of oil. But here’s the hidden benefit — all that immune-boosting fresh garlic and lemon juice. Plus, because you’re making it fresh, from real ingredients, you don’t have to worry about additives, preservatives or artificial ingredients as with bottled dressing.

Green Factor

Four maple leaves: I don’t live in a Mediterranean climate, yet much of our food culture (in the Northeast US) does. This has been the crux of a lot of bad Green Factor ratings for recipes here that would be perfectly low-impact on the West Coast. Lemons, olive oil, sundried tomatoes — we just don’t have ’em here. At least there’s garlic, for the time being before the ground freezes.

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