The Classic Caesar Salad Vessel
Nearly all cultures have used wooden bowls and wooden spoons, as far back as the Palaeolithic era. Egyptians buried wooden spoons in tombs, to be used in the afterlife. Famous Paris chefs elevated their use from artists’ tools as the favoured medium for gourmet cooking. A wooden bowl unearthed in the UK dates to 1200 BC.
WHY USE WOODEN BOWLS AND WOODEN SPOONS?
There are good reasons that wooden bowls and utensils have withstood the test of time. They are durable, practical, and aesthetically pleasing. Treated properly – as noted by The Saturday Evening Post writer, George Rector, a fine wooden bowl acquires “the patina of a Corinthian bronze and the personality of a 100-year-old brandy”.
A wooden bowl is the classic way to make a Caesar Salad. It is the ideal medium against which to grind the garlic, anchovy, and salt into the perfect paste. And that paste is the perfect base for an outstanding Caesar salad dressing. Pottery, glass, or stainless-steel bowls just don’t do it. You need a seasoned wooden bowl – the friction from the sides of the bowl helps you get the right consistency, and the sides absorb just the right amount of flavour.
Our 12” rosewood bowl is the ultimate size for two dinner Caesars or four side salads. Hand-carved in Mali, it even has a great dinner party story.
For cooking, a wooden spoon is a multi-faceted kitchen tool. It does not conduct heat – so you won’t run the risk of burning yourself. You can easily muddle spices, you can mix wet or dry ingredients, you can use them with acidic foods, they contain no chemicals, they won’t scratch your cookware, they’re environmentally friendly and extremely durable.
Also from Mali, our African blackwood cooking utensils are handmade without the use of a single power tool, and carry a powerful story. Our artisan partner’s seasoning spoons sport extra long handles for easy balancing on top of your pot. And remember – they do not conduct heat, so you don’t have to worry about inadvertently grabbing a red-hot metal handle.
THE PERFECT CAESAR SALAD – PREPARED AND SERVED IN A WOODEN BOWL
Caesar Salad is not named after Emperor Julius Caesar, as many people believe. It was in fact, created by Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant to California who opened a restaurant in Tijuana Mexico during prohibition (for obvious reasons). It was there that the infamous Caesar salad, and dressing, was created. While an instant favourite among tourists, cooking maven Julia Child really popularized the Caesar in the 1970s when she published the recipe. She had been captivated with the salad when her parents took her to the restaurant at the age of nine, and the original Caesar Cardini created the famous salad at their table – in a wooden bowl.
THE CLASSIC CAESAR SALAD
Use your seasoned wooden bowl to grind the garlic, anchovy, and salt into the perfect paste – the friction from the sides of the bowl helps you get the right consistency, and the sides absorb just the right amount of flavour, tossed in crisp romaine for the perfect classic caesar salad.
French or Italian bread, crusts removed
Good quality oil for frying
Minced garlic for tossing
Freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh cracked pepper
Freshly cut lemon wedges
6 Anchovy fillets, packed in oil, drained
1 Garlic Clove
2 Large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp Olive oil
¾ Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or more)
2 Romaine Hearts, leaves separated
HOMEMADE CROUTONS MAKE THE SALAD
1. Start with a loaf of French or Italian bread, crusts removed. You can also use the ends of bread loaves you would have otherwise thrown away.
2. Heat avocado oil (or any quality frying oil) until the handle of a wooden spoon causes bubbling after about 10 seconds (don’t try that trick with a metal spoon).
3. Cut oversized cubes from the bread and toss in the oil until golden brown. Remove and place in a paper bag and shake with minced garlic. Set aside.
THE DRESSING IS A THING
4. Chop together anchovy fillets, garlic, and pinch of salt. Place in a wooden bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mash into a paste against the sides, then scrape into the bottom. Whisk egg yolks into the mixture, then lemon juice, then mustard. Adding drop by drop to start, gradually whisk in olive oil until dressing is thick and glossy. Whisk in Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.
5. Gently tear your washed Romaine leaves into (larger) bite-sized pieces. Skip the tongs. Use your hands to gently toss the lettuce, croutons, and dressing, then top off with Parmesan (use a vegetable peeler to thinly shave a modest amount of Parmesan cheese on top of each salad for little salty bursts).
6. The original Caesar was served on leaves of Romaine, with the patrons picking up the entire length of the Roman leaf, using it as a scoop to hold the dressing and cheese. But they didn’t like getting oil on their hands – so use your discretion concerning this authentic serving tidbit.
HOW TO CARE FOR WOODEN BOWLS
You cure wooden bowls, the way you cure cast iron. And it’s important to season it before using it. With a clean cloth, thoroughly coat the wood with a mineral (NOT vegetable) oil and continue to season it as needed. If it appears dull or is dry to the touch – it needs to be seasoned again.
Use warm water and mild detergent to clean your bowl. Dry thoroughly. Never put it in the dishwasher or microwave and never let it soak – this could cause cracks as it dries out. If you treat your wooden bowl with respect and care for it properly, it will be one of your favourite pieces for years to come.
SHOP WOODEN BOWLS AND SPOONS
At Obakki, we always want to know more about the people behind our products. These five questions do just that. Today, we talk to Jack, one of our artisans from the Kibera neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya.
At Obakki, we work with our artisan partners to help them reach their goals, which often emphasize better access to international markets. And as it happens, access to a global market is part of what we are readily able to provide.
Japan’s craftsmanship is based on process and precision. But for a craft to survive in modern societies, it needs to speak to modern needs. And Japan, as a country, respects the ancient techniques and traditions that built this cultural heritage.