I am a fan of the website and I was inspired to write you upon reading a recent blog entry authored by the very deceased William Henry Harrison.
My name is Gaius Julius Caesar, famous Roman general, statesman, dictator and wordsmith back in my day* (*my day in this case refers to 100-44 BC). I am writing your website with the intention of, not only sharing with your readers a recipe for my favorite salad, but to begin a campaign to make this salad the official “Caesar Salad”.
The name Caesar, was a something that came to be used to describe a ruler, emperor or even dictator (as it were in my case). The name was meant to instill fear in my enemies, hope in my subjects and power to those unfamiliar with the scope of my work.
Back in my lifetime I was such the celebrity that the masses used to refer to my hairstyle as “The Caesar”, much like the mass media did of Jennifer Aniston’s “The Rachel” haircut. Everybody wanted to have it, in fact, some big name stars still use it (George Clooney in ER, Russell Crowe in Gladiator…how appropriate, and even Eminem is still rocking my look).
I recently googled myself and was subjected to ads for rooms in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, pizza from a miniature version of myself, a play by someone named Shakespeare and finally a salad…a horrible disgusting salad.
After reviewing the recipe of the so-called “Caesar Salad” I suddenly remembered where I had tasted the exact same thing many years ago.
Mark Antony and his wife at the time (he had like five) were hosting a lovely holiday party in Rome. Not wanting to miss out on what was surely going to be the social event of the 304 days that made up our year, I RSVP’ed several months prior. The Antony household had a reputation for creating some of the most exotic, but delicious menus, and the same could be said about their after party orgies.
Several senators (including that backstabbing sonofabitch Servilius Casca), a few poets, and my friends Crassus, Pompey and Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger were also in attendance. I remember arriving at the same time to the party as Brutus and as we got to the front door we both realized we had brought a fruitcake. I looked at him and commented, “Et tu Brute?” and we laughed about it for years afterwards.
Once dinner was announced we all took our seats to begin the seven-course meal. The antipasto was brought out, (cured meats, provolone cheese, mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts) followed by a cup of broth. The third course was one thing we Italians never get tired of…pasta. We had a spinach stuffed ravioli, which I found to be a bit on the soft side and not quite as al dente as I prefer. The entree for the holiday feast was some sort of delicious roast beast. My piece was prepared rare, bloody as hell, just the way I enjoy it. I must have stabbed that slice of roast beast 23 times just to watch the juices flow out of it.
The entree is followed by a salad, which in this case is where the story turns ugly. What was put in front of me was a foul-tasting concoction consisting of lettuce, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic, pepper, wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese, raw egg yolks and Worcestershire sauce. I loaded up a mouthful of this foul combination and was attempting to swallow it when Mrs. Antony asked me how I liked it. Unable to speak with my mouth full I opted to give her a thumbs-up as I continued to choke down my remaining mouthful. Jokingly, Mrs. Antony said it looked like I enjoyed it so much that I might have to marry the salad. The table erupted in laughter and a senator made the mistake of commenting I would have to change my name to Gaius Julius Caesar Salad (I later had that senator killed). I managed to hide the rest of the salad in my toga and excused myself to the washroom where I disposed of it. The fruit and dessert that followed the salad could not take the taste out of my mouth, so I began to drink wine to rinse my palette.
After dinner a gladiator by the name of Spartacus enthralled a group of us. He was telling a wild tale of how he was originally a Legionnaire in our Roman army, and then he was captured and sold as a slave to a gladiator school where he had gained his current popularity. A few of us told him that his story was very entertaining and that he should sell the stage rights to a theatre group. He was very modest and claimed that the story of his life was not quite over and that he some “big things” in the works for his future. It may have been the two amphoras of wine (roughly 78 liters) we went through during the course of the evening, but I remember there was another man, named Paulus who looked just like Spartacus and I kept getting them confused. Throughout the night I would begin to speak to Paulus, but I would absent-mindedly call him Spartacus. From across the room I would hear someone yell out to me, “I am Spartacus!” and I would look over to see Spartacus waving his hands to get my attention.
The rest of that evening was a blur, but I when I awoke the following morning, I found myself on the floor. Immediately I noticed someone had fashioned a crown out of lettuce leaves, from the salad, and placed it upon me while I slept. It was not a complete circle, but rather a “C” shape with my forehead exposed. I know that it was meant as a joke, but I found it quite soothing on my throbbing temples and I left it on as I wandered home. It was such a comfort to my head that eventually I had some civilians make me several different crowns made of laurel and olive leaves, which I would wear on scorching hot days, special occasions or when I was nursing a hangover.
As I stumbled back home, I came to realize that I still had the taste of that disgusting salad in my mouth. It took me all morning to rid my mouth of that horrible taste. I had hoped that would be the end of that atrocious salad, but over the years it has remained, and now it carries my name along with it.
Here is the recipe I hope your readers will consider making their new “Caesar Salad”.
Prep Time: 15 minutes. Ready in 15 minutes.
- 2 cups romaine lettuce – torn, washed and dried
- 1 cup torn escarole
- 1 cup torn radicchio
- 1 cup torn red leaf lettuce
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
- 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced in rings
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, combine the romaine, escarole, radicchio, red-leaf, scallions, red pepper, green pepper and cherry tomatoes.
- Whisk together the grapeseed oil, basil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
- Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.