Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad is one of those dishes that everybody knows, most people love, very few can spell properly, and nobody fucking knows where it comes from.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you ever idly wondered which cuisine brought us this delight – wonder no more: it’s Mexico!  Yes, the land of tacos, burritos and tamales actually produced this timeless international classic that every culture claims as its own.  It is a staple on the menu of every self-respecting American restaurant (where it usually grows to gigantic proportions and is served in a bowl that would happily feed a family of 5).  It is an unexpected favorite of Russian diners (usually existing on the menus of most pretentious restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg in a weird symbiosis with sushi, another “typical” Russian favorite).  One thing you can say for sure about Caesar Salad is that it is recognized and cooked the world over.

The basics are simple – romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing.  You can then pimp your salad up with whatever you fucking please – grilled chicken, shrimp, boiled egg, bacon, even motherfucking lobster tails!  There is no judgement and everything goes, as long as you get the basics right.

Now, this is the catch – while it’s pretty hard to fuck up lettuce, and croutons, the devil is in the dressing.  Do NOT under any fucking circumstances use any store-bought dressing.  ANY.  EVER.  And I don’t care if you are on a deserted island, starving to death, and all you have is a jar of the nasty supermarket-bought sauce with the words CAESAR proudly stamped on it – DON’T.  It’s the dressing that makes the salad, and this is exactly the thing that fucks it up BIG STYLE, if not done right.  Be a dear, and make your own fresh fucking Caesar dressing from scratch.  It’s not that difficult, and you will be awarded big time with the amazing taste of your fucking salad.

You can Google about a thousand different recipes for home-made Caesar salad dressing.  I did.  And I tried quite a few, but I swear by this one, by Jenn Segal.  It’s easy to make, does not call for any overly exotic ingredients, and tastes fucking great – what more can you ask for?…

So, without further ado, here is a step-by-step guide for all those lazy hungry fuckers who fancy making a proper Caesar salad, with motherfucking home-made dressing and pimped to perfection just the way I like it.

Ingredients:

In our household we normally cook for 2 normally-sized and medium-hungry people.  The dog prefers his own food.  If you are a bigger family, bigger-sized individuals, are extraordinary hungry, or have a bunch of guests – do your math yourselves.

For salad per se:

  • 1 head of Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped.  No, you absolutely CANNOT substitute Romaine with any other lettuce.  No fucking iceberg, butterhead, batavia, or loose leaf would do.  They won’t!  They taste differently, have a different texture, and are simply fucking wrong for the Caesar salad.  Get proper Romaine, and get with the fucking program!
  • Croutons.  Can be made without further fuzz from a slice of toasted bread, chopped into squares, and fried with a bit of olive oil and Italian herb mix.
  • Parmesan or Grana Padano flakes.  We don’t sweat it, and buy a pack in the supermarket of ready-made ones.  Our palates are not that refined to taste the difference anyway.

For dressing (if you can’t be arsed to open the link from Jenn Segal with all ingredients and follow the step-by-step recipe she carefully lays out there, I can repeat it here for your lazy ass):

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy paste. They will have it in every proper supermarket, but I bet you won’t be able to find it.  In some, they store them next to canned fish, in others they put it in the refrigerated section next to pates and cheeses.  Save yourselves some valuable eating/drinking time, tuck your pride in your ass and fucking ask somebody who works there – they will definitely be able to locate it, or at least point you in the right direction.
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise – the one that you fucking like (the brand of better quality is usually more advisable for obvious reasons)
  • ¼ cup of grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese (whichever you can find).  Again, you can grate your own, if you have a big lump of cheese and proper equipment, but we usually don’t sweat it, and use packaged stuff, carefully pre-grated by somebody else.
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pimp up your salad:

  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into bite-size pieces and grilled with whatever spices you fucking like
  • 3-4 slices of bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces and grilled.  Here our household is divided: my husband likes it nuked to oblivion, I prefer it in a still recognizable state, so take my half off the pan a bit earlier.
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

Preparation:

  • Mix the lettuce leaves in a big bowl
  • Make the dressing:
    • In a bowl whisk together minced garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce
    • Add mayonnaise and cheese and continue to whisk together to ensure the smooth consistency of the mixture
    • Add salt and pepper, and mix again.
  • Add the dressing to the lettuce, and mix well, to make sure every motherfucking piece is well coated.
  • Split the mix between 2 serving plates
  • Now, add the croutons into the plates, and mix.  It is important to add the croutons AFTER the dressing.  Don’t ask why, just fucking do it this way.
  • Add egg quarters.
  • Sprinkle the bacon over your salads.
  • Put the pieces of grilled chicken on top, and sprinkle with Parmesan shavings.

As always, you are fucking welcome!

Part 11. Lazy Last Day

The next day was technically our last full day on the island, so we decided to make it a slow and lazy one.  We had breakfast at a French place by the beach with a view over the harbor, and enjoyed proper huge cappuccinos and fresh orange juice.  We went back to the hotel for a lazy swim in our small but nevertheless amazing rooftop pool, sat around for a while, and then the mad dogs inside us demanded action.

We remembered seeing billboards advertising Canopy Walk, and decided this was just the right entertainment for a lazy day.  Google helped us locate the place – conveniently within a 10-min walk from our hotel.  And in the heat of midday two idiots set on a journey!…

At the entrance to the canopy walk, 5 young guys were relaxing in the shade.  We were their only customers at this time, and after some discussion among the guides, one of them sighed and parted with the group to accompany us on our walk.  We were strapped into harnesses, given hard hats, and instructed never to take them off, never to stray off the path, and religiously follow the guide.  In hindsight, flip-flops were not the best choice of footwear for the experience, but we bravely dived in.  The first part of the canopy walk consisted of climbing numerous narrow stairs, in some places bolted directly into the cliffs of the Mount Taraw hovering over the town, in others, hovering on metal stilts over the hollows in said cliffs.  Quite intricate and clinging to the mountain at precarious angles, they represented a masterpiece of engineering ingenuity. Metal tubes of varied length and width were bolted together to create a stairway path around and about the mountain. Whoever came up with the technical specifications for the thing, and implemented them in real life must have been an engineering genius, or partook in very serious drugs. Probably, both.

In about 3 minutes we started sweating like pigs.  The fact that the steps were shaded by the rich foliage of the jungle covering the cliff helped shit all in the over +40C heat.  Nevertheless we persevered and continued climbing the amazing structure bolted to the cliff.  The fact that our guide was running ahead like a gazelle, squeezing himself into the narrowest turns of the stairs with boneless ease served as an inspiration, and huffing and puffing we kept moving on.

Our bravery was rewarded: the steps brought us to the top of the cliff, the jungle foliage opened up, and the bay and the town lay in front of us, all but gift-wrapped.  The view was stunning, and the fact that it was just us and our guide, with no tourist crowds pushing for a selfie with a view, made the experience so much more special, even in midday heat!

The amazing view of El Nido from the top of Taraw Mountain
Yes, we are on top of the world!

The view wasn’t all the Canopy Walk had to offer, though.  After spending enough time admiring the bay and the birds-eye panorama of the town, we moved on to the next surprise – the Spider Web!  Stretched over a hollow in the cliff, the Spider Web was made of thick metal ropes radiating from the center, and secured with metal rings of increasing diameter, clipped to the ropes.  It looked like a real spider web, only made by some monstrously huge alien spiders.  And there were 3 of them – one giant one, and two smaller ones!  You could walk on the Spider Webs (you actually had to walk across them to get to the continuation of the canopy walk), jump on them, or sit in the middle, pretending to be said alien spider.  We did all three, and were happy like idiot children in kindergarten.

Spider Web!

Despite the heat and the physical efforts required for the experience, the Canopy Walk was definitely the highlight of the day, and we can wholeheartedly recommend it to all visitors to El Nido. Just ditch the flip-flops, and wear trainers.

Enlightened by the majestic views, and chuffed with ourselves for surviving all the climbs and turns of the cliff path, we were ready for some refreshments.  Our favorite Subasco only opened in the evenings, so we landed for a pit-stop in Happiness – an Israeli bar with swings.  What an absolutely brilliant idea, and a true embodiment of happiness!  All bars in the world should have swings in them!  The swings were strategically hung around the bar, so that you could push off it with your feet while enjoying your drink.  All you had to watch out for is not hitting one of the wait staff, going back and forth behind your back, but they seemed to be quite familiar with the swings’ speed and clearance needed to avoid them, and were undeterred in their movements.  We spent a lovely hour swinging by the bar, sipping on our cold beers and watching the world go by.  Nic also took an opportunity to enlighten the bar staff on the intricacies of Irish folk medicine – the day manager seemed to have been going down with a cold, and was professionally advised on how to make a Hot Toddy that would awaken the dead.  The guy gratefully concocted one right there and then, gulped it down, and went home to nurse his cold and soon-to-come hangover.

Refreshed by our beverages, we got second wind, and decided to hop on a bus to get to another nearby local attraction – Nacpan Beach. This 3 km long, white sand beach looked mellow and relaxed. Apart from the inevitable I HEART NACPAN sign, it did not look overly-touristy or super-crowded.

We walked the white sandy stretch in both directions, and landed in a pizza bar for creative cocktails and sunset views.

The bar made us once again wonder at the popularity of Italian cuisine in the Philippines – not only was spaghetti with meat balls a staple dish in the Jollibee – the most popular local fast-food chain – but a remote beach on an equally remote island could boast a proper Italian pizza oven, chucking out more than decent pizzas! Philippines was a true land of contrasts: a comprised of a multitude of islands, each with its own character, a pseudo-Latin American-looking country plopped in the middle of South East Asia, with people enjoying Italian food, and speaking very decent English language in addition to their native Tagalog and a variety of other dialects – what a mad, fantastic, enjoyable mix!

A very decent beach pizza

Our last evening in El Nido was spent in the already familiar fashion – we went back to Subasco.  By this time everybody there knew us.  We said hello to the owner, the band, and all the regulars, and had a great time listening to the guys jamming together.

The next morning, a taxi van booked by the hotel took us back to Puerto Princesa.  This was not Bobby service, but it delivered us safely to our destination, from where our long journey home to Munich through Manila, and Istanbul began.