Compliments to Chef, Mr. Cobb and to Caesar

Published 8:54 am Friday, April 21, 2017

Compliments to Chef, Mr. Cobb and to Caesar

For some reason I distinctly remember my first favorite chef salad.  When I was a student at Freed-Hardeman University (college, then) occasionally my roommate and I would find a way to go out for supper.  Neither of us had a car but some of our friends did and when invited we’d hop in and go.
In the early seventies, fast food had not made it to the little Tennessee town of Henderson and there weren’t so many local dining spots either.  Most students lived on campus and ate most of their meals in the cafeteria.  But occasionally we’d make a run to Granny’s Restaurant, where the “townies” ate.  There’s where I fell in love with chef salads.
Hers was served in a rather smallish sized bowl but it was packed full.   Cheese was mounded on top completely covering all the ingredients that filled the bowl… diced ham, crumbled bacon, chopped boiled eggs, with a variety of chopped vegetables including cherry tomatoes all tossed with shredded iceberg lettuce.
I ordered mine with thousand island and, with the first forkful, the ingredients would literally explode out of the bowl. It was so good.  Maybe the thousand island was homemade, maybe all the ingredients were fresh, maybe I was just hungry, but there was no maybe about how good it was.  And at Granny’s I ate my chef salad with Waverly Wafers, smeared with cold butter.
A cobb salad is a little different.  And somewhere along the way I did give this one a try.  Cobb salad was named after its originator, a Mr. Cobb, at the famous Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant.
I used to think it was called a cobb salad because it contained those little marinated mini-cobbs of corn. It wasn’t, and it didn’t.  But it was a combination of chopped chicken or turkey, bacon, boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado, green onions, watercress, cheddar cheese and lettuce.
Similar to a chef salad but different because it is tossed with a vinaigrette dressing and topped with plenty of Roquefort or another crumbled blue cheese giving it a mouthful of interesting flavors.  Not so much my favorite, though, because I am not particularly fond of aged cheeses.  I guess not so memorable because I don’t remember where I first tried it. But, different versions are all over menus today.
And, then there’s Caesar salad, my other BSF (best salad forever).   I fell for this one while in Starkville at Old Venice Pizza. Actually it’s the dressing that makes this one.  Maybe I had been put off by the thought of anchovies in the dressing but I got past that even to the point of sopping up every drop of the dressing with the bread that was served along with it.
There’s not much to a Caesar salad except the garlicky dressing which is just tossed with romaine lettuce, grated fresh parmesan, and croutons. It’s funny to me that this Italian sounding salad actually originated in Tijuana, Mexico.
The story goes that Caesar Cardini had customers to feed one night with very limited ingredients on hand.  But the crowd went wild over his creation and his salad born out of necessity became his namesake.  Eventually he bottled his dressing and retired.  And today you can still find Cardini’s Caesar Salad Dressing on grocery store shelves, even here.
There are plenty of good Caesar salad dressing recipes to be found, but with this store-bought one no recipe is needed! I recommend it with a chunky piece of Italian bread so you won’t leave even a smear of dressing in your bowl. You’ll definitely remember eating this one!
Regardless of how good it is, just remember that all of those high fat ,extra calorie additions and dressings are not canceled out just because it’s called a salad.  Everyone, though, should enjoy a good salad, but cut calories by leaving off those buttered crackers…. to start with.

Recipe of the Week

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Iceberg Lettuce Salad
A take on the now trendy wedge salad…
1 head iceberg lettuce
2 ounces Blue cheese
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 -3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon grated onion
¾ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon sugar
2 ounces vinegar
6 ounces vegetable oil

Hollow out center of lettuce head, leaving about a 1-inch shell.  Beat cheese and milk until smooth.  Add onions, mix will. Stuff lettuce with mixture. Chill until firm. Make dressing: mix spices and sugar.  Add vinegar, shake well then add oil.  Shake thoroughly before using.  Cut stuffed lettuce into 4 wedges and serve with dressing.