Acelebration of So Cal classics: Caesar salad that Steven takes to the grill, charred, tender artichokes with a Worcestershire Dip and a Santa Maria Tri-tip with Pinquinto Beans and Garlic Bread that proves Southern California has one of the country's most delicious and unusual barbecue traditions.
12 thin slices French bread, cut sharply on the diagonal
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
About 3/4 cup Creamy Caesar Dressing (recipe follows)
12 anchovy fillets, drained and blotted dry (optional)
1 chunk (8 ounces) Parmesan cheese for shaving over the salad
Freshly ground or cracked black peppercorns
You'll also need:
2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably oak), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained
1. Strip any blemished or wilted leaves off the heads of lettuce. Cut each head in half lengthwise, leaving the stem end attached. Place the cut side under cold running water and rinse it thoroughly, gently separating the leaves with your fingers but leaving them attached to the stem. Rinse all of the lettuce until clean, a process that may take 5 to 10 minutes. Gently shake off the water, and put the lettuce halves in a salad spinner and spin dry.
2. Lightly brush the bread slices with the olive oil. The recipe can be prepared to this stage a couple of hours ahead. Keep the lettuce refrigerated.
3. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to high, then toss all the wood chips or chunks directly on the coals. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke.
4. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the lettuce halves, cut side up, and bread slices on the hot grate, and grill until the lettuce leaves are slightly wilted and singed (the inside should remain crisp) and the bread is a deep golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes per side.
5. Transfer the grilled lettuce halves to a platter or plates, cut side up. Cut off and discard the stem ends. Spoon the dressing over the lettuce. Place a slice of grilled bread on either side of each lettuce half and arrange 2 anchovy fillets, if using, in an X on top of each. Using a cheese slicer or vegetable peeler, shave large thin slices of the cheese over the salad. Sprinkle it with pepper and serve at once.
Creamy Caesar Dressing
Yield: 1-1/2 cups
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped (optional)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1. Place the garlic, anchovies, if using, cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and egg in a blender or food processor and purŽe to a smooth paste. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar.
2. Add the salt and pepper and process until a smooth, creamy dressing forms. Taste for seasoning. The dressing can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.