Do you have one classic dish that you simply can’t get enough of? One that you will order, without fail, every time you go out? If so, welcome to the club. James and I have eaten Caesar Salad at least once a week for the past… I don’t know… two years? Yeah, I’m serious.
In fact, I often try to find ways to incorporate Caesar Salad into my meals when I’m not eating Caesar Salad. I’ll put a Caesar spin on brussels sprouts. I’ll eat Chicken Caesar Pizza. I’ll lay a coat of Caesar dressing on things it clearly doesn’t belong on. I’ll make fusion recipes with my favorite ethnic foods and –you guessed it– Caesar salad.
Now that it’s warming up in my neck of the woods, I’ve been seriously craving some Cuban cuisine. What better way to get my fix than with a César Salad? (See what I did there?)
The first motion towards Cuban-ification was replacing the croutons with something that is approximately a million times more delicious, and that thing is tostones. If you’ve ever had tostones, you probably have a gigantic smile on your face because everyone who has ever eaten one knows that they are the greatest things since french fries. Putting french fries on a salad seemed kind of weird, but tostones? Totally cool.
For those of you who don’t know, tostones are made from green plantains, which look deceptively like bananas but taste absolutely NOTHING like them. Warning: do not try to eat raw green plantain. It’s kind of like eating raw potato.
Yes, I speak from experience.
Anyway, those plantains are cut into pieces, fried once, smashed, fried again, and then sprinkled with salt. They taste even better than they sound.
Then I added in some avocado, manchego cheese (a sharp, hard Spanish cheese that is almost reminiscent of parmesan and common in Cuban dishes), and I made a zesty Caesar-esque dressing to top it all off.
The dressing features the typical flavors of Caesar dressing, but it uses orange juice and lime juice instead of lemon juice, kicks up the garlic, and has a hint of cumin. Make it and it will become a favorite.
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated manchego cheese
For the tostones:
- 2 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1” slices
- Oil, to fry
- Salt, to taste
For the salad
- 3–4 hearts of romaine lettuce
- 1 avocado, diced and squeezed with juice of 1 lime
- 2 oz manchego cheese, shaved
- To make the dressing combine all of the dressing ingredients except the oil and manchego in a food processor or blender and process until well-combined. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until smooth. Add in the cheese and pulse a few times. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.
- Heat 1″ of oil in a large, high walled, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Once the oil bubbles, place the plantain pieces in the oil and fry until lightly golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the plantains from the pan and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- On a cutting board or other flat surface, flatten the plantains, one at a time, by pressing a plate on top of the plantains. Return to the oil and fry until golden, about 1 minute per side.
- Remove from oil and place on paper towels again to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle the tostones with salt and let cool.
- Separate the leaves of the hearts of romaine and top with chopped avocado and manchego cheese. Crumble the tostones over the salad like croutons, and dress with the Cuban Caesar dressing.
Feel free to add in black beans or serrano ham!