I just found out that I’ve gained 13 lbs in the past 4 months. Yikes. It oddly coincides with the start of my little blog here… so weird… My doctor tested to make sure that on top of my MANY other issues that I’m not also suffering from some sort of thyroid disorder. Post blood work, he called to let me know that my thyroid isn’t in fact having any difficulty and that it might be, just maybe, the fact that I don’t watch what I eat nor do I exercise… could be… I’m willing to consider it as a potential possibility… He thinks he’s SOOO smart just because he’s a doctor who went to Harvard Med…
So as I stood in my kitchen the next day pinching my love handles as I often do nowadays when I’m deciding what to munch on (they’re smushy and comforting), I remembered this incredible Caesar salad that I had at Il Buco on Bond Street. It’s my friend, Beyhan’s, favorite Italian restaurant in New York and she’s particularly in love with this salad. The anchovy dressing is stunning – tangy, savory, nutty, garlicky and it happily reminds me of heavy and sweet ocean air. It’s served over (notice how the dressing is the main component of the meal to me) raw Tuscan black kale, which is incredibly tender, not at all dirt-flavored, and carries rich, almost meaty flavor. Crispy, rustic, ping pong ball-sized croutons and fresh shaved parmesan just transport this “salad” into something that I want by the bucket-full, the brightness of it perfect on a humid summer’s day.
So love-handles in hand, I decided that I would try and make a “healthy” version of the scrumptious Il Buco “Cavolonero” salad (that’s fancy for Caesar). It was a last-minute decision, so I didn’t have a chance to pick up any Italian kale and settled for some ho-hum romaine spears instead. Still crispy and good. I didn’t have any eggs, the typical binding ingredient in most Caesar dressings, but I did have a small jar of mayonnaise hanging out in my fridge door… As I reached for it, I had a mental flash of me sitting in my exercise clothes on the couch, love handles popping out as they’ve outgrown my sports top, with a face covered in bomboloni sugar and pastry cream, Tivo remote in hand wondering just how tall Cat Deeley actually is. Shudder. I quickly looked around my fridge and found a nice container of cottage cheese which I keep around to dip potato chips into (a little tip from my friend, Amanda Panda). Not quite mayonnaise, but I thought it might give nice body and texture to the dressing.
You know what else? I love anchovies. There, I said it. Some people are anti-anchovies, but I love the briney deliciousness of what can only be described as their “anchovy” flavor. That oceany, pungent saltiness is like Vietnamese fish sauce and it’s basically good with any savory dish. It’s great in tomato sauces as well and I can’t make my bolognese (another post to come) without it (or porcinis). If you don’t like anchovies, then you don’t like Caesar salad. You probably also hate umami. Why would you do that?
My Caesar experiment also accomplished another little goal of mine (besides pretending to diet): I got to try out my Magic Bullet blender! You know, that ridiculous little blender from the infomercials??? Yup, I bought it. Why? Two reasons: I’m a sucker for all things “As Seen On TV” and I got a Costco coupon in the mail to get it at a discount. Actually, my mom and I both got them several months ago, but neither of us had used them yet. Of course, because I’m impatient and my own worst enemy, I threw out the instructions with the packaging when I initially bought it, meaning that I didn’t realize there were 2 different blending tops: one for puréeing and one, apparently, that just stirs crap. Yeah, I used the stupid stirring one first and watched as my anchovies basically swirled around inside the container, unharmed, while the olive oil proceeded to get bitter.
Luckily, I dug around in the Magic Bullet’s handy carrying bag and found the puréeing top. But wait! There’s more! I also found a small-sized grinding container for my 3/4 cup worth of dressing vs. the quart-sized one that I had used on my first attempt. Even better, this allowed me to try and wash the anchovy smell out of two Magic Bullet tops and containers. It’s a real gem being me…
In the end, though, the Caesar dressing was so badass that next time, I may just throw it in one of the handy Magic Bullet grinding containers that Optimus Primes itself into a beer mug thing and drink that stuff through a straw. Better not… But as I served my homemade Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken and a healthy smattering of freshly-grated Parmesan (what??? cheese is good for you!) to my friend, Angela, who came for lunch, we both felt that if this counts as dieting, then we can definitely deal with shedding a few pounds. As usual with my dieting, I have not consulted anyone on the right way to lose weight, nor have I actually calculated out the calorie and fat content of my diet Caesar dressing… which is only low-fat in my mind because I didn’t use mayonnaise.
Mindy’s “Diet” Caesar Dressing
– 2 t Salt
– 8 Anchovy filets (treat yourself to good ones – especially when on sale!)
– 2 Garlic cloves, medium-sized (smashed or rough minced – just to make sure you don’t get a giant chunk of raw garlic)
– 2 T Cottage Cheese (I used non-fat and it worked perfectly, but feel free to go whole hog)
– 1/2 c Lemon juice
– Worcester Sauce
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 1/3 c Olive oil (always extra virgin – where do you even buy non-virgin, streetwalker olive oil anyway?)
– 1/2 c Parmesan cheese (grated – you can reserve some thin slices for the salad or just be lazy and use grated Parm all over like I did)
1) If using a Magic Bullet, make sure you have the purée top… You can also use a mini-food processer or just mash the following ingredients together until they combine into a sandy paste: salt, anchovy filets, garlic cloves, & cottage cheese.
2) Either add lemon juice to your Magic Bullet/food processer and blend, or whisk lemon juice into your paste to combine.
3) Add pepper and a few drops of Worcester sauce. Taste and re-season with more salt, anchovy, pepper, Worcester, garlic, etc – basically, make it your brand of delicious.
4) Add olive oil and 1/2 c of your Parmesan (reserve 1/4 c to sprinkle on top) and blend just to combine or whisk into paste in a drizzle if combining by hand. Don’t overwork your olive oil or it gets bitter.
5) Toss with Tuscan kale or even regular kale (the curly leaves pick up a LOT of delicious dressing and add a little spice), romaine spears, arugula, whatever floats your diet boat. Normally, I’m anti-overdressing a salad, but when it comes to this dressing…
6) Serve with slices of grilled, well-season chicken breast and croutons. If dieting, substitute delicious Everything Flat Breads, which I don’t think really saved all that many calories but they’re delicious! If I weren’t dieting, I might also have breaded some pounded out chicken breasts and seasoned with a little lemon-butter… but if not dieting, I also might have still had this salad to pre-game for a big ol’ cheeseburger with bacon.