Friday, May 19, 2017

Romaine Hearts with Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing

     House Salad!
     Ordering a House Salad used to be something special.  Up till about the 1970's, a House Salad was a unique creation that represented what a restaurant was all about.  The salad ingredients reflected on the restaurant theme and this is why it was called a House Salad.
     In modern times, the House Salad has been relegated to being a small bowl of baby lettuce greens that are minimally garnished with a choice of dressings that are usually commercially produced.  This is a far cry from the design of the original House Salad theme, which was a reflection of the unique qualities of the restaurant.  For the most part, the modern House Salad is really nothing more than a token side of salad, which lacks character and does not reflect upon the theme of the restaurant.  
     Bringing back the good old days of dining out is as easy as making a House Salad that is designed to entertain guests.  Let the House Salad be a pleasant surprise, rather than try to describe it to guests in detail.  The mystique of the House Salad is every bit as important as the unique ingredients that set the salad apart from another House Salad that are served at different restaurant down the street.  The House Salad should be unique at every restaurant!
     Today's salad recipe actually was a House Salad at an Italian restaurant that I worked in back in the early 1980's.  This Italian restaurant style House Salad has an uncomplicated Romaine Wedge presentation.  The Basil Garlic Dressing is made like an aioli or mayonnaise, but the basil and garlic are not finely pureed.  The result is a garden fresh herb flavor with every bite.

     Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing: 
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.  (4 to 5 portions)
     The aioli can be made in a food processor, but whole basil leaves should be added last while pulsing, so the basil is not finely pureed.
     Step 1:  Measure 3/4 cup of olive oil and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1 egg yolk (large egg) in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 drop of the measured olive oil at a time while constantly whisking, till a thick aioli emulsion starts to form.
     Step 3:  Continue adding a thin steam of oil while constantly whisking till about 1/4 cup of the measured oil is added.  The aioli emulsion should look thick and pale yellow at this point.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Continue adding a thin stream of the measured olive oil while constantly whisking, till a thick basil aioli forms.
     *At this point the aioli will be thick enough to stand tall in a spoon.
     Step 5:   Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Slowly add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil while whisking.
     Step 6:  *The aioli will be very thick after adding the last portion of oil.  The consistency must be adjusted by adding warm water.  Be careful not to add too much water or the dressing will be too thin.  
     Add l teaspoon of warm water at a time while constantly whisking, till the dressing becomes a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     *Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary.
     Step 7:  Place the Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     Romaine Hearts with Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing:
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     Step 1:  Place 2 romaine hearts side by side on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Garnish the plate with 4 slices of Plum Tomato.  (1/4" thick).
     Garnish the tomatoes with 4 slices of peeled seeded cucumber.
     Garnish the cucumber and tomatoes with 4 black olive halves.
     Step 3:   Pour a generous portion of the Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing over the romaine hearts and onto the plate.  (2 to 2 1/2 ounces)
     Step 4:  Sprinkle some thin shaved Parmigiana Cheese over the romaine hearts.  (About 1 or 2 tablespoons.)
     Garnish with a basil sprig.

     The Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing has a strong flavor, with plenty of fresh basil oil "bite."  This healthy Italian House Salad will certainly entertain guests!

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