Le Gruyère AOP reserve Caesar salad

  • medium
  • 2
  • 1 hour 15 minutes
Not yet rated

This hearty salad is a twist on a traditional Caesar, with plenty of delicious, umami-rich extras to add texture and deep, savoury flavour – garlicky mushrooms, crunchy, cheesy croutons and whole, caramelised garlic cloves. This salad is made without chicken or fish, but Gruyère cheese is traditionally made with animal rennet. Many vegetarians, such as Nancy, don't mind such technicalities, but it's worth checking if you're cooking for guests.

First published in 2015

I absolutely love Caesar salad. I was introduced to it in earnest when I lived in Canada – a version of this salad is available on pretty much every menu there, as I suspect it is in much of North America. My version has more than a few twists – I've replaced the anchovies with miso paste for a vegetarian alternative, as well as swapping the Worcestershire sauce for an anchovy-free version.

I also added some flavourful marinated mushrooms to the mix. The way you cook the mushrooms is really important – searing them until browned all over caramelises their flavourful liquids and builds loads of flavour. This is especially important when making vegetarian food, and I turn to this technique again and again when cooking this and other vegetables.

Garlic is infused into the salad in a variety of ways. A little is mixed with oil to season the sourdough croutons. The garlic in the Caesar dressing is first steeped in lemon juice, which 'cooks' the garlic and softens its bite (my new favourite technique!). Finally, roasted garlic is blended into the mushroom marinade and whole-roasted cloves are tossed with the lettuce.

Accentuating all this is plenty of delightful Gruyère – melted over the croutons and blended into the dressing, as well as shaved on top. This long-aged cheese has layer after layer of complex flavour, so much flavour! All of which beautifully complements the meaty mushrooms, the roasted garlic, the seasoned dressing and the wheaty croutons.

It's really important that you use a hearty loaf with plenty of crunch and chew. Sprinkling water over them before roasting in the oven gives you lovely croutons that are crisp and browned on the outside, but still with a touch of softness in the middle. The textural contrast, along with the deliciously encrusted Gruyère cheese, is what makes these croutons truly remarkable.





Whole roasted garlic cloves

Sourdough croutons

Marinated garlic mushrooms

Gruyère Caesar dressing



Preheat the oven to 200°c/gas mark 6
Slice the top 1cm off the garlic bulb. Wrap in a twist of baking paper or tinfoil and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the garlic cloves are caramelised and evenly golden brown
While the bulb is roasting, prepare the garlic oil for the croutons. Crush the clove of garlic and add to a small bowl. Mix with a good drizzle of olive oil and set aside
Remove the roasted garlic bulb from the oven and leave to cool. Pop the garlic cloves out of their papery casing and set aside for finishing the salad, reserving 2 cloves for the marinated garlic mushrooms
To prepare the bread for the croutons, cut the sourdough slices into cubes and add to a medium bowl. Sprinkle over the water and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the remaining olive oil and massage into the bread
Arrange the cubes of sourdough in a single layer on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes, shaking once or twice as they cook, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle over the grated Gruyère reserve and return to the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and return to the same bowl
Drizzle over the reserved garlic oil and set aside to cool, tossing occasionally to ensure the cheese and oil are evenly distributed
Heat a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Cut the mushrooms into quarters or thick slices and add to the pan in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Sear on all sides until golden brown and reduced in size
Meanwhile, mix together the other ingredients in a small bowl to form a marinade. When all the mushrooms have been cooked, transfer to a bowl, toss with the reserved marinade and set aside
For the dressing, finely grate the garlic and add to a small bowl with the lemon juice. Mix well to combine and set aside, leaving to infuse while you prepare the other ingredients
Add the egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce and miso paste to a food processor along with the garlic and lemon and blend thoroughly. Add the grated cheese and blend until fully incorporated into the dressing base, seasoning with plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Measure the oils into a small jug and, with the food processor still running, start to slowly drizzle in the oils into the dressing until emulsified. Once all the oil has been added, taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning if necessary
Add the sliced salad to a large bowl with the remaining whole-roasted garlic cloves, the marinated mushrooms and half of the croutons. Drizzle over the dressing and toss everything together until fully combined
Divide the dressed salad between two large bowls and garnish with the remaining croutons and a few shavings of Gruyère

Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

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