Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nordic Caesar Salad with Paprika Dusted Croutons and a Sardine and Sartori Cheese Dressing

So I love food TV. Surprise!! Yes food porn is one of my favorite things. But lately I am growing a little bored with the offerings. Just like I am a little bored with all the coast centric foods and ethnic offerings most food television seems to focus on. Not that there's anything wrong with that, please I love Asian inspired Californian cuisine or Italian pasta dishes with a modern twist as much as anyone. I even feel like the South and Southwest even gets it's due on TV.  But what about the other part of the country? You know the big part. You know the square states, the middle. What about them? That's why I am glad to see in this Summer's Savour Magazine a focus on the Midwest. And also Chef Amy Fielding's show on Cooking Channel, Heartland Table. Her caesar is one of the inspirations for this recipe.

I have a Midwestern Heritage myself actually you see. As much a part of my family background as the South is, because my family is tied there and I grew up there, I also have roots through my Mother's family in the Midwest as well. Her Norwegian  roots are well planted in Chicago Illinois. And I am well aware of my family's history and background from the fiords of Norway to Chicago and Brooklyn.. The foods of that heritage melding in Chicago with the Polish, German and Eastern Euro cultures, who brought hearty comfort foods to the American heartlands in a major way. Providing the background, in fact, of what most of us would consider "American" food. Hearty meat and potatoes meals that for a century were the hallmark of a growing new nation.

What's interesting is that Food Television seems to have recognize this lull interest amongst viewers in only chef driven shows. They have departed from their standard programing grasping out at what would appear to be family values. Now homes and Mom's, Farm foods, ethnic foods and exotic hosts, as well as story telling about family traditions, Grandparents, and hearth and home all seem to be on the forefront of Food Television's new offerings. In this trend they have also recently acknowledged through programing choices the fact that between the coasts, where much of the country is, is a vast wealth of American food history and food identity. I mean where did they think steak dinners came from anyway? New York city?

So enter the Midwesterners with their farms, ranches and sensibilities. Square states are suddenly sexy and so is the food that they call their regional cuisine.A vast array of states with ethnic backgrounds rooted in the immigrant migrations of the late 1800 and early 1900's. American food, solid, hearty and unpretentious. In short the food we grew up with and the foods we still love.

So what has this to do with Nordic Caesar salad, well only this. Caesar salad which originated in California is a staple today on many American tables. Years ago I traveled to Monterey, California and went to the Aquarium there. Very nice place indeed. At that time I had a Caesar salad at a restaurant called the Sardine Factory ( because that was what it was in it's former life).  They of course made their Caesar with what else, sardines!  Ms. Fielding reminded me of this when I saw her show. So I thought that bringing in a Nordic twist  like this, because Sardines are so Nordic, gives it a little flair. I think using a different fish from anchovies actually gives this dish an amazing new and different zing. Deep rich smoked slightly fishy flavor, different from the anchovies we all are accustomed to. Plus the change of cheese coming from the Midwest and not Italian Parmesan ( Wisconsin thank you) brings an interesting texture and flavor as well. It's creamy with a different flavor but still salty delicious. Bacon and scallions make it better, and the paprika croutons give it delicious color and texture. So give this a try and I hope you like it as much as I did. Enjoy, Ya'll!!

Nordic Caesar Salad with Paprika Croutons and a Sardine and Sartori Cheese Dressing

2 teaspoons of minced garlic from the jar
2 smoked Sardines ( I used Rolands Golden Smoked Sardines amazing )
1/2 cup Mayonaise
1 1/2 cups grated Sartori Bellavitano Cheese aged 5 years
4 tablespoons lemon juice ( I used the green bottle did not have lemons on hand)
5 to 7 tablespoons olive oil
Maldon Sea Salt and Freshly ground Pepper
1/2 loaf country bread or rolls pulled by hand into pieces
Sweet paprika for dusting
2 tablespoons melted butter and 4 tablespoons olive oil heated and combined
Salt and pepper
3 scallions diced
2 strips of bacon crumbled
2 tablespoons capers
2 heads of romaine lettuce roughly chopped or hand torn ( hand tearing is classic for a caesar but chopping is easier. I actually chop)
Lemon Wedges for garnish ( optional)

For the dressing:

In a mixing bowl add the sardines pull out the backbone and mash.
Add the garlic and mayo and lemon juice and mix well.
Add half the cheese and mix.
Drizzle in the olive oil a bit at a time while whisking till the dressing comes together.

For the croutons:

Line a baking tray with foil
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Place the bread on the tray and bake for 7 mins
Pull out and test to see if croutons are dried out. They should be.
Sprinkle the croutons with the melted butter and oil and toss to coat.
Dust with the paprika and toss to coat.
Place back in the oven for another 8 to 10 mins till golden and done.
Cool and Reserve.

To assemble the salad:

Place the scallions, capers and bacon in the bottom of a large salad bowl.
Add half the dressing.
Add lettuce on top add half the croutons add 1/2 of remaining shredded cheese.
Add more dressing cheese and croutons till the salad is dressed to your liking.
( note: Caesar Salad should be thickly dressed but not over dressed)

Serve with lemon wedges and extra dressing and cheese on the side if there is any.

Enjoy Ya'll!!

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