As we move into early summer the green salads we grow here at The Edible Flower have more lettuce and less of the rocket and mustard leaves – which grow better from late summer onward. This year we are growing two delicious cos-style lettuce leaves; a bright green variety called ‘Maureen’ and an absolutely gorgeous very dark purple (almost black) variety called ‘Deronda’. Cos-style lettuce is perfect for a Caesar salad as it’s robust enough to hold up to the thick, silky dressing without collapsing at the bottom of the bowl.
I’ve suggested using jarred roasted red peppers (a great store cupboard ingredient) but you can definitely roast your own. I would roast them whole with a little olive oil on the skins at 180˚C for about half an hour or until they are soft and collapsing. Then put them in a tupperware with a lid or a bowl with clingfilm over the top as they cool. This will make it easy to peel off the skin.
For the croutons:
3 slices slightly stale rustic white bread (I used sourdough)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the dressing:
5 anchovy fillets in oil, drained (or more if you love anchovies)
1 large garlic clove
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
Zest and juice 1/2 lemon, plus more juice to taste
150ml oil (I used 30ml olive oil and 120ml sunflower oil – if you just use olive oil the flavour will be very strong)
50g parmesan – about 2/3 for the dressing and the final 1/3 to garnish
For the rest:
100g salad leaves – ideally with lots of crisp cos-style leaves
2 large peppers from a jar of roasted red peppers (or you can roast your own), sliced into strips
20 black olives
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Cut or tear the bread into small cubes/pieces. Toss in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until crisp and golden.
Next make the dressing. Chop up the anchovies and garlic finely and then add a pinch of sea salt and smoosh it together with the tip of your knife to make a paste. Put this paste in a large-ish bowl. Add the egg yolks, lemon zest and juice and the mustard and mix well. Next add the oil very gradually, whisking the whole time. Start by adding it just drop by drop and then once you feel confident it is emulsifying then you can pour it in a thin stream. You can also do this is a food processor or a stand mixer (with the whisk attachment) if you don’t want to do it with a hand whisk.
Stir in the Parmesan and season with black pepper. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if you fancy.
When you are ready to serve put the washed salad leaves in a large bowl. Add the dill in little sprigs, 3/4 of the croutons and most of the olives. Add 2/3 of the dressing and toss the salad together really well. I use my hands, but it’s a messy business. Put the leaves in a serving bowl, add the sliced roasted pepper, the remaining olives and croutons. Finally shave some thin strips on the remaining Parmesan over the top (I use a potato peeler to do this).
Serve immediately, ideally in the sunshine and with a glass of sparkling wine in hand!