I also made a new version of my usual Caesar dressing that added mayo and omitted anchovies, which is even further outside my comfort zone than potentially soggy salad — but I digress before I’ve even begun.
Last night, Mark and a few other Boston-based artists were performing at an outdoor concert sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce. Wanting to prepare ahead and not to eat takeout junk one more time, I decided to make a hearty Caesar Salad with Baked Salmon the night before. So, after putting Georgia to bed, I got down to business cooking fish, chopping greens and oven-roasting bread for croutons, then packaged it all up to grab n’ go the next day. The results were surprisingly excellent! Here’s what I did.
Make-Ahead Caesar Salad
Ingredients: one sourdough bread ball, two salmon fillets, two romaine hearts, two garlic gloves, 1 TBSP white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 lemon, grated Parmesan to taste. Makes two dinner-sized portions.
The key is to do all the prep but save the mixing until 5 minutes before you need to leave. Then, to assemble, you just toss grated Parmesan in the bottom of the bowl, add the salmon and the croutons on top, pour over the dressing, and squeeze the two lemon halves over top. Toss with your hands, and dig in!
Prep the Lettuce: Wash, dry and rough chop two heads of romaine. Set aside in a stainless steel bowl that will keep the greens colder and fresher in the fridge overnight. I like Ikea’s compact salad spinner and stainless mixing/serving bowl, and this lettuce knife which are both easy to store in a small kitchen, to make quick work of this often-onerous aspect to preparing fresh salad. To store, seal with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Make the croutons: Pre-heat the oven to 350. Tear up a ball of sourdough bread by hand and place on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through. (In the past, I’ve just used English muffins or whatever old bread I had lying around to make croutons. Sourdough seemed very hard to me, but it actually works great once you cook it with olive oil! This was one idea gleaned from Blue Apron that I’ll be using over and over). Let cool and set aside in a plastic or glass storage container.
Cook the salmon: Dry off two salmon fillets, season with salt and pepper, and cook in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat with olive oil, starting skin-side down, for 8 minutes, then flip and cook another 4 minutes longer, adjusting to your level of desired doneness. Remove from the heat let cool then place in a storage container. Before storing, use a fork to flake into pieces and toss the skin.
Make the dressing: Mince two garlic cloves into a tablespoon of white wine (or other) vinegar. Zest one lemon’s peel into the mixture; slice the lemon into quarters and juice two of them into the dressing, reserving the others to squeeze over the salad just before you’re actually about to eat it. Stir in a quarter cup of mayonnaise and season with a bit of salt and pepper. This makes enough dressing for the two romaine heads, plus a little extra. I don’t love my Caesar swimming in dressing, but you can tailor to your preferences.
I stored each component in a plastic bag or glass storage dish, then assembled the salad in between coming home from work and going to the concert.
Possibly the biggest surprise of all was that Georgia tried it, ate some lettuce and croutons, but then said “mo’ fish??” And proceeded to steal all my salmon!
Overall, this took very little time to prep the night before, and gave me a to-go dinner perfect for eating on the grass with my gal while listening to daddy sing. I’ll definitely do this again.
The concert itself was also really fun. Mark did a great job and lots of his family were able to come. And there were balloons!
As my mother-in-law said, summer in America at its finest.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone! We have a family reunion tomorrow and then it’s a Mommy and G day Sunday while Daddy works on the Freedom Trail. Our plans include church, checking out the new splash pad in town, and probably having a tea party. Summer is going by so fast!