Salty, tangy, crisp and light – what's not to love about a Caesar salad? Though it's Julius Caesar that springs to mind when we think of this wonder, it was actually rustled up in Mexico by Italian-American chef Caesar Cardini.
The original wasn't that far from the dish we know and love today, packing in cos lettuce leaves with olive oil, egg, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, topped with garlicky croutons and parmesan cheese.
These days, plenty of restaurants are upping their Caesar salad offering, with Bella Italia's Italian-inspired Pollo Caesar salad with pancetta and Pecorino cheese, Prezzo's meat-free or chicken options and Pizza Express' umami anchovy version.
The emperor of salad
Every Italian-American joint will have their own take on the Caesar salad, but we guarantee you'll rarely find one the same. Changing just one ingredient, such as the cheese topping or even the type of lettuce it's served with, makes it that little bit different from all the other salads out there.
Prezzo serves theirs with baby gem lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes and Gran Levanto cheese for fresh flavours, while Bella Italia opts for whole lettuce leaves and chargrills their chicken for some light smokiness and contrast between warm and cold ingredients.
Light and savoury flavours
The special genius of the Caesar salad is the contrast of textures between the juicy lettuce and the crunchy croutons.
If you want to be truly authentic you should eat yours with your hands too – yes, that's right – true Cardini style. Pair yours up with a dry rosé to enhance the light, savoury flavours.
Fresh ingredients and homemade dressing
Unique Caesar dressings can also make or break the dish. There are debates over the best ingredients for the dressing, but most mainstream mayonnaises include a solid mixture of egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper with garlic, olive oil and Worchester sauce.
The Caesar salad is not a refined dish, but it was never intended to be. It's hearty enough to be a starter or a main, and is a standout choice when made with fresh ingredients and a little know how.