The seasonal vegetables I used from the garden and polytunnel were: Little Gem lettuce and garlic in the dressing - with eggs from our organic hens.  For the salsa I used a mixed selection of tomatoes, and basil - with some nice juicy fresh garlic cloves for rubbing onto the toasted Bruschetta  

Both of these recipes couldn't be easier! Just the thing you want in the busy summer holidays when you don't have time to spend hours messing around making meals, and need something in the fridge ready to go for a quick and easy meal at odd times!

I've always loved a good Caesar Salad and have tried many versions over the years, in some great restaurants. The best I ever ate was in the rooftop restaurant of Saks Fifth Ave in New York - which was was my special treat to go to, when visiting friends there, before I decided to stop flying to reduce my personal carbon footprint.

I've tried since to find a really good dressing recipe to replicate that memorable salad for what seems like forever! - Sadly I could never find one in any of the usual good books which didn't involve an awful lot of time-consuming faffing around with half-boiling eggs, disemboweling the uncooked yolks and then slowly drizzling oil into things - which I have neither the time nor the patience for!  I wanted something really easy, where I could just throw everything straight into the blender and eat literally two minutes later.

I also looked on the web - with no joy either. Some even included shop-bought, non-organic mayonnaise - yuck!  After a lot of very disappointing experiments (the dogs ate quite a lot of the trial dressings!) - I finally invented this one, which is the quickest, easiest and definitely the fastest one ever!  Not only does it taste every bit as good as the original Saks recipe I loved - as I think you will agree if you've ever tasted it - but actually I think  it's even better.  It's all organic and bursting with nutritious, healthy ingredients!

On our Late Lunch,  'From Tunnel to Table' programme I served it over Little Gem lettuce leaves - as the Romaine Cos lettuce which I'd wanted to use for this salad had bolted in the hot weather.  The original classic Caesar dressing recipe is for Romaine lettuce, which stands up really well to any dressing. It's really good with any variety of crisp lettuce though - but it would be criminal to serve it on Iceberg - which is totally devoid of nutrition, but if if that's your favourite - use it if you must! It will improve it anyway - which isn't hard! You could also use this dressing as a dip with vegetable crudites. I haven't tried it as a pasta sauce - but I reckon it might just be good for that too!
 
I also used some of our own home-produced chicken in it on the programme as Gerry had been dying to try it, with some smoked streaky bacon lardons from Coolanowle Farm (www.organicmeat.ie), some crisp sourdough croutons and organic Parmesan.  It was simply heaven on a plate and truly brought back so many wonderful memories.  Recreating favourite recipes always does that for me - instantly reminding me of where I first ate any particular dish. That's when I know of I've really hit the spot and got it right! I think that's what all really good food should do - it is one of life's greatest pleasures after all.
 
The second recipe we enjoyed - the Simple Tomato Salsa, is a wonderfully fresh-tasting melange of tomatoes, which are surely the most seasonal of fruits at this time of year. I think that anyone who grows tomatoes will find this is brilliant made with any variety - but it's particularly good if you can include a few cherry ones in the recipe too. It also vastly improves any shop-bought tomatoes if you don't grow them.It's pure summer on a plate!
 
In the programme I served it on crisply-toasted sourdough bread, rubbed with homegrown garlic, because that's what I happened to have here - but in Italy it would be served on toasted Ciabatta. Any really substantial crisply-toasted bread would do for it though - you don't want horrible soggy sliced pan bread for this - or in fact anything - ever!  If you have any left over afterwards - you can add some chopped garlic to it, half blend it and serve it as a cold summer soup a bit like a Gazpacho, or as a quick and really fresh-tasting raw pasta sauce.
 
The ingredients for both recipes are easily available in most large shops now. Needless to say they are, as usual, are all organic so I won't keep repeating that. Organic ingredients are scientifically proven to be more nutritious, and naturally they are lower in pesticides and heavy metal contamination.
 
 
The Recipes:
 
Recipe 1.  Incredibly Easy, Best Ever Caesar Salad Dressing!
(serves 4-8 - depending on greed!)
 
This dressing will keep in a covered jar in the fridge for 3-4 days quite happily - IF it lasts that long! It's a good idea to make it a bit ahead if you have time, so that it has time to thicken slightly while chilling in the fridge. 
 
It's actually even better made the day before - when it thickens to a silky, 'double cream' or 'half-whipped cream' texture.

 

 
Ingredients:
 

3/4 of a cup of natural full-fat Greek yogurt - Glenisk is the brand I used as it's available everywhere in Ireland (I find cup measures easier for measuring liquids)

 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (firmly packed, but not tightly crammed)
 
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil 
 
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
 
3 anchovy fillets (don't worry if you're not keen on anchovies - you won't taste them in this, but they're absolutely essential to get that authentic 'Caesar dressing' flavour. You'll have some left over from the tin or jar, so rather than waste them, you can freeze them in 3's to make this dressing another time, or to use in other dishes. I try to never waste even a scrap of any food!) 
 
1&1/2 teaspoons of good Dijon mustard. (Ready-made mustard, not powder. It's so annoying when recipes don't specify which!)
 
1 or 2 cloves of fresh garlic (add 1 to start with if they're big cloves - you can taste it and add more if you like)
 
1 raw egg yolk. (use eggs as fresh as possible for this. If eggs are clean, very fresh and definitely organic, they are healthier for us raw which may come as a surprise to many people! Don't worry about raw eggs being in the dressing if it's left in the fridge for 3-4 days, the lactic acid and healthy bacteria in the yogurt slightly ferment it, acting as a preservative and thickening it even more)
 
 
Method:
 

Just throw all of the ingredients into your food processor or Nutribullet (which is what I use)  

Process until smooth and emulsified - which will literally take only half a minute. Don't over-process as it may warm and start to separate. 

Done! How easy is that?

Put into a covered jar and chill until needed. Shake or stir just before using - to ensure that the dressing is smooth.

Store any leftover dressing in an airtight jar in the fridge for 3-4 days

 

To Serve: 

Drizzle onto leaves and toss to lightly coat (don't drown them!). 

For the plain version, add croutons and extra grated or shaved Parmesan. 

For the vegetarian version, you could also add grilled, plain silky tofu if wished and make the croutons with olive oil only. (Definitely only organic tofu in this case - as all non-organic tofu is made from GMO soy. Clearspring do a nice one).

For the omnivore's version - whatever else takes your fancy with the croutons and Parmesan - smoked or plain chicken, bacon lardons etc. Making the croutons with the leftover bacon fat really makes this sensational!

The idea with this dressing is just to have a very light slick on the leaves, but if you like a much thicker and heavier dressing - you can add some chia or flax flour or seed blitzed. They are both more or less tasteless but good thickeners, which also add some nutrients. Try adding just a level teaspoon at first, blitz into the dressing to combine and leave to stand for a few minutes, then test again for thickness, as they take a few minutes to thicken.

 

To make the croutons:

After cooking the bacon for the lardons, lift it out with a draining spoon, reserving any fat which runs off, and snip it into pieces with kitchen scissors. 

Toss the cubes of bread in the fat left over in the frying pan, to absorb it (or use a tablespoon of olive oil for vegetarians).

Put them on a sheet pan in the oven at 190 deg C for 10-15 minutes. Keep a strict eye on them to make sure that they don't burn! Remove from the oven when nicely browned and crisped through, and cool on the tray.  If you can resist just trying a few to see if they're crisp enough - you're a better woman than me!  Just make sure there's some left for the salad!

 

Recipe 2. - Simple Tomato Salsa - to serve with Bruschetta

This recipe is something we eat a lot in the summer when we have really good tomatoes, and is so easy that I can't believe I've never done it before on Tunnel to Table - but it couldn't be more delicious! 

 

Ingredients: 

Any amount of assorted, good-flavoured tomatoes.  It's hard to be exact, but for instance, 6 large and 12 small cherry tomatoes should serve about 2-3 people, serving on 4 slices of toasted bruschetta each. This recipe is great for using up any odd bits of larger beefsteak tomatoes left over after making a very neat tomato salad!

Including some small sweet cherry tomatoes in this really makes the recipe zing with flavour - but if you don't have any, adding a very small pinch of white sugar with the salt and freshly-ground pepper will help improve to the flavour a lot.

A small handful of fresh basil leaves

Good extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Thick slices of ciabatta or sourdough bread

Some fat juicy garlic cloves.

 

Method:

1. Cut all the tomatoes up into fairly small pieces, about the size of a 1/4 of a cherry tomato and put them into a bowl.

2. Finely shred or chop the basil leaves and add to taste as you go.

3. As you add the chopped tomatoes, drizzle with a little olive oil as you go - not too much at first as it gets more runny as it sits, and you can end up with soup - (which is still very nice!) Stir gently to combine after each drizzle of oil.

4. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Again go easy at first and taste as you go along - you can always add more if needed.  I can't stress how important it is to always use freshly ground, preferably organic pepper - as this is on another planet in terms of both flavour and beneficial phytonutrients!

This can sit in a covered bowl in the fridge for several hours or days if wished - or served straight away.

 

To serve:

Cut the peeled garlic cloves in half

Toast the slices of bread until really crisp, but don't burn them as it ruins the flavour!

As you take the hot slices from the toaster, let each person rub their slices with the cut side of a garlic clove, and pile on the salsa from the bowl with a spoon!

This is not a polite lunch or supper - it's a relaxed, 'eat with your fingers' meal to share with good friends anytime in summer and enjoy!

 

 

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