Caesar Salad and Chilling Out

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We’ve been trying to eat outside on our patio table more often as the weather warms up and the days get longer.  I want to enjoy myself in this zen-like way where I don’t care about a little extra mess, where Olive eats everything we serve and she isn’t wildly distracted by the dogs and the wind and the trees and the air and where I lean back in my chair, leisurely taking bites of my food and just enjoy the moment and the concept of taking a little longer than usual to eat dinner.  But instead, what has happened the few times we’ve done this, is I get all worked up and stressed trying to feed Olive and trying not to make a complete mess without her in the playful looking restraints of a high chair, and I end up trying to scarf down my food so that I can tend to whatever mess is going on, or try to block Olive from feeding all her food to Cash.

I do this to myself.  (For the record, this stress is only with food and dining – I am okay with a muddy kid or a messy house or whatever – but please, don’t put food in your hair and whatever you do, do NOT drop food from your tray!) I don’t enjoy the experience of something different and out of control, I let that ruin the experience for me.  Now, my sweet husband might just say, “Let’s not eat outside anymore if it bothers you so much!” (always trying to keep me from feeling anything but joy) but I think what I need, instead, is MORE dining experiences where not everything is micro-managed by my desires for things to look and go perfectly.

It happened again this Sunday – we had a picnic in the park with some people from our church group and we brought a tish bit of an ambitious lunch.  Matt had made all the components for this really great Vietnamese pork and noodle salad and everything was so delicious, but I instantly got down about: 1. the wind blowing lettuce and dirt in my face 2. my baby walking around the blanket and the park NOT eating and spitting things out that we tried to make her eat (God bless one of our friends who had the brains to bring a banana 3. just the overall lack of control I had over the components of my meal – it was messy and I needed a bowl and lots of napkins and NO wind, but I didn’t have those things and I became really negative and I am 100% sure I ruined the experience for Matt, who was trying his best to stay positive while eating beside a big rain cloud (me).

Whenever I struggle with sinful things in my life like jealousy or greed or pride or even the need for control (a sin, I believe), I try to do a bit of immersion therapy on myself and directly expose myself to the thing I can’t seem to handle as often as possible until I am over it.  It has worked in the past and I think I will try to apply it here.  I resolve to eat outside MORE often.  To let messiness happen MORE in situations where I’d like to appear perfect, and I resolve to look at my situations like Olive would – like an opportunity she’s never had before and quite possibly might never have again!

An opportunity you might never have, again, is enjoying a properly made Caesar dressing, because absolutely no restaurants make this dressing right, or from scratch.  This recipe is so flavorful and has just the right balance of tanginess from the lemon and anchovies and creaminess from the oil that it’s nearly like a beautiful, homemade mayonnaise  with a kick!  I see this salad happening a LOT during this hot summer ahead!

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Just a little behind the scenes shot of how I usually take my food photos 🙂

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Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons*
makes about a cup of dressing

4 tbs lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 large egg yolk
4 anchovies, plus more for garnish, if you like
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tbs bacon grease from 4 strips of cooked bacon, or melted butter that has been cooled
Torn up romaine lettuce
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Combine all the ingredients except the canola oil in a tall, wide cup and blend with an immersion blender and then slowly drizzle in the oil.  Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and extra lemon juice.

Toss leftover cubed up bread on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and toast until golden brown.

Toss a couple tablespoons with the lettuce until nicely coated.  Top with croutons, cut up pieces of the bacon and extra Parmesan cheese.  And lots of cracked pepper!

*recipe adapted a lot from Ruhlman’s amazing sounding Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar.

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2 thoughts on “Caesar Salad and Chilling Out

  1. Though I’m not a fan of Caesar dressing, I love the idea of more outside eating of any kind. We don’t often do it though, because there is a lot more to it. It’s easier to just eat inside and then play out side. Going to a park just means packing it all up and then having to clean it up. Then you add the bugs, wind, and keeping kids on task and the whole event is way more work than it’s worth. I applaud you for trying and perhaps you will inspire me to try more often. I find that I need to just chill out, not fret, and slow it all down. Here’s to trying to find that ever illusive thing called balance!

    • Maybe not the park – how bout just hauling some plates and bowls outside on your picnic table? Maybe start with just dessert after dinner and go from there!

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