Monday, April 19, 2010

Salad Days for Caesar


Despite the old chestnut about the certainty of death and taxes, April 15th used to sneak up on my husband and me, even though we always got money back. That is, in our salad days, when making amends with Uncle Sam wasn't a priority. The past few years have been kind of hard on our finances, along with a lot of American families, so this year, we filed the return in January and promptly received a modest refund which will cushion our budget for a few months.

I don’t complain about taxes. I complain about health insurance premiums, but not taxes. Tax money gets my children educated, the roads paved, and the water to my house, among many things. When I hear people complain about taxes and government, I remember how Jesus handled the issue. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17).

If you’re not familiar with the scripture, the story goes like this: the Pharisees and the Herodians were trying to trip up Jesus. The Jews in Judea were required to pay a tax, a denarius (a day's wages), but the coin used to pay the tax featured the Roman emperor’s image and proclaimed that the emperor was divine. Some Jews felt that by paying the tax, they were submitting to Roman rule, which led to the learned men to ask Jesus “Is it right to pay taxes or not?”

Jesus recognized the trap and asked to see the coin used to pay the tax. He asked whose image was on the coin and they said, “Caesar's” and Jesus replied, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” I like the next verse: “and they were amazed at him.” This scripture has a lot to say about duty to the government, but I think the key is the part about God. I can give to the government what it requires, but I give God what's really important - serving Him with my time, my heart, my life.

These days, I seem to serve God best by spending my time and my heart and my life in the kitchen. In thinking of a fitting meal for the ides of April, I decided to honor another Caesar, he of Cardini and the famous Caesar salad. Caesar Cardini was from Italy, but he created the eponymous salad at his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, in the 1920s. It’s a remarkably simple recipe - greens, garlicky croutons, Parmesan and a creamy dressing that is tangy and salty and unforgettable. Because this was good year in terms of a tax refund, I loaded up my salad with shrimp and avocadoes.

caesar salad

Loaded Caesar Salad with

Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Avocado

Caesar Dressing

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 anchovy fillets, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients, egg yolks through anchovies, in a blender and blitz until combined. Slowly add oil until emulsified. Store in refrigerator until needed.


3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 loaf rustic white or whole wheat bread, crusts removed, cubed into 1-inch pieces

Pinch of salt

1. In a 350° oven, toast bread cubes for 10 minutes. Combine olive oil and garlic and toss with toasty bread cubes. Season with salt. Return to oven and toast for another 5 to 7 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool until ready to use. Store leftovers in airtight container.


Lemon Garlic Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp (31/35‘s)

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. When butter foams, add shrimp and sautee for five minutes, or until just pink. Add garlic and stir, then lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Use as garnish on salad.

Assembling Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces

Caesar dressing

Parmesan cheese

1 avocado, split in half, pitted and sliced into 1-inch pieces

Lemon Garlic Shrimp


1. If making individual salads, start with a bed of greens and drizzle dressing over all, toss to coat greens. Add shredded Parmesan cheese, shrimp, avocado pieces and croutons.

2. If serving family style, put out a large platter and cover with greens. Drizzle the dressing over, add the shredded Parmesan and toss to coat greens. Place shrimp, avocado pieces and croutons in corners of the platter and serve.

This is a satisfying meal using easily obtainable ingredients. I estimate the total at $14.08, which includes the homemade bread used for the croutons. Here's the breakdown:

Eggs .25

Anchovy .75

Romaine lettuce 1.49

Bread, homemade 2.00

Parmesan 1.00

Avocado 1.00

Lemons .50

Shrimp 5.59

Butter .50

Pantry staples .50

If you’re feeling flush, serve with a grilled flatiron steak, baked potatoes, and rich fudgy brownies for dessert. I bought a flatiron for $6.94 and the brownies probably have about $3.oo worth of ingredients in them, so for about $25, you can create a feast worthy of Caesar.


© 2010, Lucy Mercer.

For more about what Jesus said regarding taxes (among other subjects) check out "What Jesus Meant" by Garry Wills, © 2006.

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