Friday, June 15, 2012

Food Friday: The rule of Caesar

It was the summer I was 21. I had hoped to have an internship at a fantastic newspaper but instead I found myself shacking up with Grandma and working at a (relatively) nearby country club. I bused tables and poured water. I made chicken salad and scooped Graeter's ice cream. On a rare occasion, I even made a Bloody Mary or two.

But it was a night in the kitchen, preparing salads, that scarred me. A server (and drinking buddy) came back with a dry vodka martini.

"Not time to start," I told her.

"It's not for you," she said with a laugh. "I need you to put a couple anchovies in it."

Anchovies? In a martini?

I could barely stomach the idea of anchovies as a garnish on the club's Caesar salad but putting them in a martini made my stomach turn. From that day on, I had to look away as a gloved hand adorned an otherwise tasty salad with the slivers of salty fish.

I also had to turn off my brain when I found myself eating the occasional Caesar salad or making pulled chicken Caesar salad sandwiches. The dressing is defined by the inclusion of anchovies but in my mind, I was eating "special" ranch.

However, I was going to have to (wo)man up if I was going to make a dish I knew Mark and I would love: Clean Salmon Caesar Pita Pockets.

The recipe, in the "The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook" by the clean-eating maven Tosca Reno, starts off innocently enough. You have plain low-fat yogurt and then there's a clove of garlic. But, listed third, is anchovy paste. Anchovy paste.

Not only was it the fish I so despised but it was in a tube, all ground up and stuff.

But I was committed. I was going to get over my fear and I bravely added a 1/4 teaspoon to the food processor along with the other ingredients and gave it a whirl. I bent down, took a whiff and was overwhelmed with goodness. The local basil that I had gotten in my Green BEAN delivery smelled so sweet and so good that I no longer cared that there was ground up fishies in the dressing.

Feeling satisfied, I went ahead with the dish. I chopped lettuce and vine ripe tomatoes (again from Green BEAN), sliced wheat pitas and grilled the ever gourmet Aldi salmon on the Weber.

 In less than 15 minutes, the meal was ready. I barely had time to roast the broccoli that I planned on serving with it!

Note: Also served with sea salt and black pepper kettle chips - for color, of course.

Mark and I really enjoyed this dish. The dressing definitely felt more basil than Caesar but, as my husband loves to say, the flavors really complemented each other. The best part, though, was this is a meal you can feel good about eating. I don't think the entire plate hit 500 calories (even with the chips), and it was full of fresh vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and omega 3s!

Clean Salmon Caesar Pita Pockets

For the dressing:
½ cup plain, low-fat yogurt (<---- don't use non-fat; I did and it was a bit runny)
1 large clove garlic
¼ teaspoon anchovy paste or minced anchovy
1 handful basil leaves
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Dash hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Pinch each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 (4-ounce) wild salmon filets, skin and pin bones removed
Pinch each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 whole wheat pitas, halved to create “pockets”
4 cups romaine lettuce, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 to 3 tomatoes, sliced

Add all dressing ingredients to a food processor or blender and whirl until thoroughly blended. Transfer toa a bowl or container and set aside. You will have extra dressing, which will keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium high. Season salmon with a pinch of salt and pepper and place in skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare to medium, or longer for more well done. Salmon that is left a little pink in the center (medium-rare to medium) will be more moist and tender and is safe to eat, but cook to your desired doneness. When salmon is finished cooking, remove and transfer to a cutting board.

Stuff pita pockets with romaine and tomato slices. Cut salmon filets in half, and nestle them into pitas. Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons dressing into each pita pocket. Serve immediately.


  1. Am I the only one to notice that this is a vegetarian cookbook but the recipe has anchovy...which is an animal. :) My husband is a vegetarian and doesn't eat Caesar salad dressing because of the anchovies.

  2. That sound amazing! And I love my Green Bean Delivery too, they are wonderful!