There are a couple cravings I seem to endlessly have - Fresh Pasta at all hours (thanks to the tiny but mighty bacteria in my gut who feed off sugars - more about that here) and the infamous Caesar Salad. I have loved caesar salad since I was a child. My mom still tells the story of me at five years old ordering chicken tenders, caesar salad and a Shirley temple for myself at every restaurant (#healthy lol) regardless of what type of food they sold. I always felt like I was doing something good when I would order a caesar salad in high school or college. So proud I was ordering a salad when others got fries. Little did I know Caesar Salads aren't much better.
Although still lettuce and a good source of mineral Romaine is very low in fiber and not as nutrient dense as some of the other beneficial greens - not to mention it can't catch a break with recalls and seems to not be worth the E coli risk, especially when ordering at a restaurant. Also caesar dressing is generally made with egg yolk which contains healthy nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E and K as well as important B vitamin, folate. And don't get me wrong I love eggs which are also a good source of bio-available protein, but when combined with oil, cheese, fried white bread (aka croutons) and bacon they contribute to the high fat levels in a caesar salad. Although extra fat is not an issue for everyone and in fact the right amount of fat is fuel for our brain and helps our hormones function properly, if you are already at risk for high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease ordering a caesar salad may be not much better then ordering a burger and fries.
I was aware of all the strikes against the caesar salad but I knew I was't going to avoid it forever. That is not what I do. No food is "bad" and every recipe can be molded to become more nutrient dense, focus on healthier fats, higher fiber and still be delicious - basically become healthyish.
My caesar salad substitutes romaine for shaved brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts are exceptionally high in vitamin K and therefore beneficial for bone health and normalizing blood clotting. They are also high in vitamin C and most importantly pack lots of fiber (just 1/2 a cup has 8% of your daily needs). I also removed the egg from the dressing, I find the dijon and anchovies which are a good source of calcium, iron and zinc add the same umph. I kept the parmesan cheese and used pancetta, as well as sourdough bread for the croutons focusing on better quality ingredients without sacrificing flavour.
Brussel Sprouts thinly sliced (mandolin or food processor)
parmesan cheese (shaved or grated)
pancetta (cut and then pan fried)
For the Dressing
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic minced
3 anchovies, chopped
salt and black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
For the Croutons
sourdough bread - the better the quality the better the croutons
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 clove garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
For the dressing: in a bowl combine all ingredients except oil and mix and mash until anchovies incorporated (this can also be done in a small blender). While whisking add oil until emulsified. taste and adjust flavor if needed
For the croutons: mix garlic in olive oil then drizzle on bread, salt and bake for 10 minutes, toss and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown (watch and smell for when done your oven may be different)
Salad: pour dressing onto sprouts and gently massage. toss with croutons, then top with pancetta and parmesan before serving