Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lemon Basil Caesar Salad

Who doesn't love a good Caesar salad?  The crisp crunch of romaine lettuce and croutons. The creamy, salty goodness of Parmesan cheese and dressing.  It really is a sensory experience for the pallet.  Unfortunately, this salad can really add up in calories and cannot be consumed by the average person everyday.  It also is not the same for those with wheat sensitivities when you order sans croutons.  Today you are in luck my friends.  I've managed to create a wonderful, flavorful punch to Mr. Caesar by adding lemon and basil.  The creaminess remains with a simple tofu substitution.  For the croutons, I decided to experiment.  I spread polenta into a baking dish, chilled for a couple of hours, and then cut it into cubes and baked until the "croutons" where golden brown.  Crisp on the outside, but soft on the inside.  I also added some grilled chicken to make this an entree.  You could also serve it as a side with pasta or grilled steak.  If you are looking for an elegant, fresh summer salad for a nice dinner at home or to entertain your friends with, you have to try this salad.  Hale Caesar!

Lemon Basil Caesar Salad with Parmesan Polenta Croutons
inspired by Gourmet's Basil Caesar Salad

For the dressing:
1 cup silken tofu
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1-2 clove(s) garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

For the croutons:
2 cups water
1/2 cup corn meal or polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

For the salad:
1 bag romaine lettuce
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Parmesan Polenta Croutons (see ingredients above)
Lemon Basil Caesar Dressing (see ingredients above)
Salt & pepper to taste

To make the dressing: blend the tofu, basil, Parmesan, lemon juice, zest, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, pepper, and salt in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside or store in an air tight container until ready to serve.

To make the croutons:  pour the 2 cups water in a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Whisk the corn meal into the water, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat.  Add the cheese and stir until combined.  Spray a square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly spread the corn meal mixture into the pan.  Cover and cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or until firm.  When the mixture is firm, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.  With a knife, cut the corn meal mixture into one inch cubes.  Place on the cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the cubes begin to become golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5-10 minutes before placing on the salad.

To assemble the salad:  you can serve individually and store all of the ingredients separately or place the lettuce on a large serving platter or in a large bowl.  Top with the shredded Parmesan, croutons, dressing, salt, and pepper.  I added grilled chicken to make this a complete meal.   

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