I love Caesar salad. The briny, tangy dressing, the crunchy croutons, and silky crunch of romaine. Even a Caesar salad that’s only so-so makes me pretty happy, though a sub-par Caesar serves an entirely different purpose than an intentioned, all-from scratch, mindfully prepared Caesar. When done right, this latter version is special, understated, and worth sharing.
My family recently spent a week on Great Diamond Island in Maine. It’s a quiet, wooded island with secluded rocky beaches and the almost constant aroma of sea roses diffused in the air, twisting with the scent of seawater before reaching your nose. It’s a spot we’ve been visiting for some time, and being there always refreshes my love of simple, delicious food. Along that rustic shoreline, food seems only to need the right amount of salt and a loving drizzle of olive oil. Complicated preparations and hours in the kitchen just feel extraneous and alien. We were there with family, and I wanted to make a dinner that could balance the rich simplicity of our surroundings. It needed to be special but straightforward. While thumbing through my cookbooks, I landed on April Bloomfield’s recipe for Caesar salad from A Girl and Her Pig. My search was over. We’d top our salads with plenty of freshly grilled shrimp and call it a meal.
It is these understated pleasures of life - salt air, the tang of anchovies, sea roses, and crisp romaine - that make me fall in love with our farm share over and over again. Life’s exquisite details that can so easily pass us by if we aren’t careful, mindful, attentive. The rhythm of the seasons and their ever changing culinary offerings. The sweet anticipation of what’s on the cusp - waiting for herbs and then garlic scapes before tomatoes and peppers. In the cacophony of everyday life - inboxes, screens, deadlines, and headlines, I am working to make a meditation of tuning out the excess and tuning into the intricacies where the real magic awaits.
In my life before children, I worked for several years in marketing for a local non-profit organization. We focused much of our energy on word of mouth, because believe it or not, this old time standby is still steady and true. As a food lover who marvels at how wondrously lucky we Brookford customers are, I feel driven to add my voice to the word of mouth buzz that will help spread the word about Brookford’s CSA, and the simple magic that is contained within a weekly box full of vegetables. Brookford still has shares available for the summer session. Members who join late get a prorated price, so there’s no paying for food that has already come and gone. Payment plans are available to help make this luscious food more attainable to more people.
If you, like me, find yourself caught up in the quiet moments unpacking your CSA box, tell a friend. Tell them about the emerald green carrot tops, the smell of feathery dill, and the head of lettuce that resembled an enormous ruby flower. If you anticipate opening a new jar of yogurt so that you can be the first one to dip into the custardy layer of cream, tell your neighbors. Share the reminder of reticent joys. Life doesn’t always have to be so big. Use your voice, your powerful voice, to call attention to the little things.
A Mindful Caesar Salad
adapted from A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield
8 ounces of croutons, preferably homemade
8 anchovy fillets, or 2 tsp anchovy paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 large egg
1 cup sunflower seed oil
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
Maldon or good quality sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 lb. fresh romaine or other crisp lettuce, washed and chilled
Optional - grilled shrimp, chicken, or steak for topping
In a food processor, combine the anchovies, vinegar, mustard, and garlic until smooth. Add the egg and pulse for 30 seconds. With the machine on, slowly add the oil until the mixture emulsifies and thickens slightly. Add the cheese, and pulse briefly until incorporated. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper. Cover the dressing and refrigerate until cool and thickened, at least 30 minutes. In a large bowl, toss the chilled lettuce leaves with half of the dressing, gently rubbing the dressing onto the leaves with your clean hands. Arrange fresh croutons on top, then sprinkle on some more cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper.