Let’s talk salad – Caesar salad to be specific.
Salads are supposed to be healthy for you, right? But these days, as most of us are all well aware of, most salads encompass more calories than a Big Mac at Mcdonald’s, a whole personal pan pizza or sometimes, even a giant vat of pasta with cream sauce. Why?? Because most salads are just a blank canvas, a blank canvas that allows for copious amounts of cheese, nuts, fried topping and fattening dressings. And one of the worst culprits of all of them?? The Caesar salad.
With its heavy dressing, butter-laced croutons and pounds of cheese, Caesar salad isn’t exactly the most nutritional choice for your body. I had always associated Caesar salads with wilted lettuce saturated in dressing, so it was never really that appealing to me. But then, then I tried a real Caesar salad; one with a light dressing, one where the leaves were still crisp when I took a bite, and one that I could feel a little bit better about scarfing down.
Since then, I’ve become slightly obsessed with figuring out new, more healthy ways to eat my new-found favorite salad, and this skinny kale and brussels sprout version always hits the spot.
I know that brussels sprouts have a sort of negative connotation associated with them, but I happen to adore them, especially in their raw state. It’s funny how different cooked and raw brussels sprouts taste (and smell), so if you’re not a fan of them cooked, I’d highly suggest chopping them up and swapping it with a romaine or iceberg lettuce in your favorite salads.
Here, I thinly sliced all the brussels sprouts and combined them with another healthy favorite of mine – kale. Kale is totally having it’s culinary moment right now, it’s popping up on practically every menu from the finest of restaurants to the run-of-the-mill chains; in fact, these days it’s rare for there to be a kale salad absent from a restaurant menu at all. And rightfully so, it’s so much heartier than your average lettuce and packs an incredible amount of nutrients into each bite, plus it just flat out tastes good.
The dressing is kind of a “shortcut” dressing; most Caesar salad dressing begin with a raw yolk and a copious amount of oil, but for my base, I used a low-fat mayo (not non-fat!), combined with a touch of water instead of oil to thin it out and stretch the dressing further. I just throw it in the mini food processor with some roughly chopped garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and plenty of parmesan cheese; turn it on, and blend until everything is smooth. At this point you can alter it to your liking; it you want it a little bit thinner, add a little bit more water. If you want a little bit more acidity, a little more lemon juice. Brininess? Anchovy paste. And as always, season with plenty of salt and pepper to taste.
A quick note on anchovy paste. DO NOT BE AFRAID! I know people kind of freak out when they see the word anchovy, but trust me, your dressing will not taste like anchovies, and it just adds this briny, salty almost savory flavor to the dressing that really can’t be replicated by anything else. It can be a little tricky to find at the grocery store, but I usually find it near the pickles and olives up high in a small, skinny tube. A little goes a long way, so one tube should last you a pretty long time.
Of course a Caesar salad isn’t a Caesar salad without croutons, and when it comes to croutons I can be quite picky. I would never ever even think about buying croutons from the grocery store, not only because those boxed croutons are horrible (in my opinion), but they’re incredibly easy to make at home, so I always make them from scratch. Usually I just use whatever leftover bread I have lying around, but in this case, I wanted to keep things light; so I went with a multi-grain bread. I diced the bread into cubes, and tossed them with just a touch of olive oil (a spray would also work) and sprinkled them with salt, garlic powder and a little bit of Italian seasoning. Pop them into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, and you’ve got homemade croutons! I like to make a giant batch and then store them in mason jars so they’re ready to go when I throw together a quick salad on a weeknight.
All that’s left is to toss everything together and shave a little bit of parmesan cheese over the top.
Skinny Caesar salad!