Culinary SOS: Caesar salad dressing and croutons

Dear SOS: I'm hoping the chef at PizzaVino, a lovely little restaurant on the plaza in Sebastopol, Calif., will share his secret for the most delicious crunchy croutons I've ever tasted. It seems as if many of us "Hail, Caesar"!

Carol Bloom

Woodland Hills

Dear Carol: The secret to PizzaVino's croutons is focaccia, which makes the croutons extra light and crisp when toasted. Tossed with tender lettuce in a tangy Caesar dressing, this salad makes a refreshing side dish or light meal.

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PizzaVino's Caesar salad with crunchy croutons

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Adapted from PizzaVino in Sebastopol, Calif.

VIDEO: Watch Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter make this dish in the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

Crunchy croutons

5 cups fresh focaccia bread, cubed

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the cubed focaccia with the olive oil until evenly coated, then toss with the salt. Spread the bread on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden and crunchy, 15 to 20 minutes.

Caesar salad dressing

2 cloves garlic

3 anchovies, or to taste

Zest and juice of ½ lemon, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Worcestershire sauce

1 egg

1 cup olive oil, more as desired

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Using a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor, grind the garlic and anchovy into a paste.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic-anchovy paste with the lemon zest, red wine vinegar, 1 to 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce and egg. Whisk to combine, then whisk in the lemon juice.

3. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to thicken and emulsify the dressing. Season and adjust the flavoring as desired. This makes about 1 cup dressing, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The dressing will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 2 to 3 days.

Caesar salad assembly

12 cups tender romaine leaves (such as Little Gem or baby romaine), washed and drained

1/3 to ½ cup Caesar salad dressing, more as desired

2 to 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


In a large bowl, toss the romaine leaves with dressing just to coat. Plate the salad on a serving platter or on individual plates. Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the salad, and top with the croutons. Serve immediately.

Each of 6 servings: 342 calories; 4 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 29 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 18 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 337 mg sodium.

SOS REQUESTS: Send Culinary SOS requests to or Culinary SOS, Food section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, phone number and city of residence.

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