For all the grief the Caesar salad gets in the culinary world, I proudly admit to adoring the classic flavor combination — garlicky-lemon dressing mixed with anchovy-umami undertone that can only come from salty fish, topped off with nutty, pungent parmesan. If I could eat only one salad for the rest of my life, it would be some form of Caesar.
Today's recipe is a quick pivot on the standard version. The dressing uses a tiny bit of mayo for creaminess instead of raw egg. Instead of romaine, I use shaved raw Brussels sprouts, which significantly boost the protein. And the bright lemony dressing completely covers any lingering cruciferous notes from the raw Brussels that may bother some palates.
I leave off the bread croutons, a move originated in honor of my daughter's intolerance of gluten, but one that works out well for those watching carbs. Instead, I lightly saute up sardines and cut them into cubes to stand-in as croutons, boosting protein, omega-3s and salty flavor. I skip the anchovy paste, no longer necessary, in the dressing.
If the sardines scare you, I encourage you to give them a try. A can of sardines will only set you back a buck or two, and are handy to have in the pantry. If you are a canned sardine newbie, I'd suggest looking for the words "boneless and skinless" on the label. The bones are actually barely detectable, and the skin is tasteless, but the skin is hard to remove, and its silvery color is a bit of a turn-off for my kiddos. So maybe start slow.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian — melissadarabian.net — is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy."