Table for One

Your New Favorite Caesar Salad, Thanks to One Secret Ingredient

A twist and turn never hurt anyone.

by:
June 28, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.


The best Caesar salad is, for me, one in which you can taste the anchovies times a thousand. In the lettuce, in the dressing, even in the croutons. Anchovies galore.

This means that the salad can feel meaty and substantial enough to be lunch or dinner on its own, especially the way I make it: a whole romaine heart, scattered on a large plate with my extra-gutsy Caesar dressing, plus a generous handful of torn sourdough croutons, and lots of Parmesan cheese. A real knife-and-fork salad.

There's nothing like ingesting an entire heart of romaine (or cos, as Nigella Lawson calls it, named after the Aegean island where it originated) by yourself in one sitting to make you feel virtuous and light. Did you know that one single head of romaine lettuce has a whole gram of protein? Which means all you would need to do is eat six Caesar salads to get the protein equivalent of one egg. Talk about superfood.

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Top Comment:
“Ooh, what a gem 😉 this makes me crave a Japanese inspired Caesar with furikake, kewpie and bonito flakes. Also how good is it when you finally try good lettuce. My first time I was like... I could eat this stuff with almost as much fervour as a bag of chips. ”
— Zozo
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Back to the anchovies: I didn't know the importance of them until I had my first "real" Caesar in Northern California. After a couple wine tastings in Napa Valley, my friend and I grabbed a quick lunch at the farm-to-table wonder Mustards Grill, where they serve a super fresh, super crunchy, anchovy-redolent gem lettuce Caesar salad. (We also ordered the sweet corn tamales and citrus black beans, which were equally divine.) The next night, we had another spectacular Caesar at Chez Panisse; again, it had great anchovy flavor with crisp California lettuce like none I'd ever tasted.

Those meals made me realize how much I had been missing in the realm of the Caesar. Everything up until then had been a mockery! A ruse! Who knew that what Caesar salad needed most was to taste even fishier?

Now, I understand that anchovies aren't for everyone, and to those people I say: thank u, next. Maybe this recipe isn't for you (scroll down below for one that is; I've collected Food52's best).

But if you are an anchovy devotee like I am—and like my Big Little Recipes colleague Emma Laperruque is—then this might be the Caesar salad of your dreams.

I've taken a cue from Emma, who says, "If you ask me, garlic isn’t the make-or-break ingredient. It’s anchovies. And a lot of them." A whole can, in fact.

Because I'm all alone in the world, my Caesar salad recipe serves one (though you could certainly scale it up times two or four—lucky you).

But you know what? Even this single-serving Caesar salad dressing calls for an entire can of anchovies: most of the olive oil that the anchovies have been stored in (one tablespoon for the dressing, another for the croutons) and half of the fillets.

The best Caesar salad is, for me, one in which you can taste the anchovies times a thousand. In the lettuce, in the dressing, even in the croutons. Anchovies galore.

As if that weren't enough, I've added a packet of Korean roasted seaweed snack, or gim (which you can find at most grocery stores these days, especially Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and H Mart).

What Is Gim?

Gim is nori, or seaweed, that's been brushed with sesame oil and sprinkled with salt, then roasted until crispy. These days it's marketed as "roasted seaweed snack," I imagine because it eats like a salty chip—and that's certainly one way my family enjoyed it growing up. But more regularly, it was a pantry staple we kept on the dining room table because it tastes great as a side dish with any meal or as a makeshift vehicle for rice.

As an adult learning to fend for himself in his own kitchen, I quickly learned that it also happens to work especially well as an ingredient in cooking.

Roasted seaweed snack adds savory depth to Caesar salad dressing. Photo by Julia Gartland

In a Caesar salad, roasted seaweed amplifies the dressing's salty seaside flavor, but it also provides a back note of savory nuttiness, which pairs well with the equally savory and nutty anchovies.

It's a habit I've picked up from my mom. Whether it was kimchi fried rice or bibimbap, she always crumbled in some gim at the end for extra oomph. Today, in turn, I like it in avocado toast, scrambled eggs, and even sour cream dip. It adds that somethin' somethin' that's hard to replicate.

In Korean, there's a word for this über savory, nutty flavor one gets from roasted seaweed snack and other umami-laden ingredients: gosohae. There's no perfect English translation. It describes foods that are rich, tasty, and lip-smacking. And an anchovy-rich Caesar salad is, for me, certainly that.

Do you like anchovies in your Caesar salad dressing? Let us know in the comments below.

More Caesar Salad Recipes

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jennifer Fleischner
    Jennifer Fleischner
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    David Miller
  • Shane Latimer
    Shane Latimer
  • Zozo
    Zozo
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Eric Kim is the Senior Editor and 'Table for One' columnist at Food52. Formerly the Digital Manager of FoodNetwork.com, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson Kim. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway.

11 Comments

Jennifer F. July 4, 2019
My feeling is, why call it Caesar Salad if there are no anchovies?!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 4, 2019
Agreed!
 
David M. July 1, 2019
Going to try this tonight! Just clarifying though, regular sesame oil, not toasted sesame oil, correct?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 1, 2019
Hi David! Either would work fine, actually. It's really just to enhance the sesame flavor that's already in the roasted seaweed. I use this brand, which is (despite its label) technically "toasted": https://www.amazon.com/Kadoya-Pure-Sesame-Fluid-Ounce/dp/B002HMN6SC

Let me know how it goes! Thanks for your interest.
 
Shane L. June 29, 2019
I have only once eaten anchovies, and with that experience, I swore It would never happen again. It wasn’t the flavor, but the texture that turned me off. It felt like my tongue had been licked by a cat, a sort of spiny caress, eww. I don’t remember the dish, only that it involved whole anchovies, and capers. I’ve avoided anything anchovy since.
I am a huge salad eater though! I just love the fresh, cool crispness of lettuce, always savory, never sweet (for me). The way you describe this Caesar salad you’ve concocted, I really want to give it a try, I just need to let go of my past anchovy experience. Since in the dressing, they are all whizzed up, no funky texture right? Crunchy, savory, and creamy, yeah?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. June 30, 2019
Correct, no funky texture! All gets blitzed in the dressing. You could always start with half of the anchovies, taste, and see how you feel?
 
Shane L. July 12, 2019
So Eric, I followed your recipe exactly (which is difficult for me, as I always tweak things a bit), coated a few romaine leaves, gave it a taste, and decided it wasn't really for me. Later in the day, however, I mushed up a tablespoon or so with avocado. I spread this mixture onto some toasted sourdough, and topped it with a fried egg. In this way, I really enjoyed the flavors 😊.
 
Zozo June 29, 2019
Ooh, what a gem 😉 this makes me crave a Japanese inspired Caesar with furikake, kewpie and bonito flakes. Also how good is it when you finally try good lettuce. My first time I was like... I could eat this stuff with almost as much fervour as a bag of chips.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. June 30, 2019
That sounds lovely, and so right about "first time" lettuce.
 
CameronM5 June 28, 2019
Wow, that’s a lot of anchovy! I’d try it though! Where is your favorite place to get Caesar salad in NYC?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. June 30, 2019
I get so much fresh romaine in my CSA, I usually just make it for myself at home. Also, there are more bad restaurant Caesars than good, in my experience...