Classic Caesar Salad Paired with Helles Lager

This classic Caesar salad recipe and beer pairing may seem a little simple, but oftentimes the simplest things in life are the best things in life, right?

A classic caesar salad recipe and a beer pairing to go with it! This pairing may seem simple but sometimes the simplest things in life are the best :)

So that bowl of caesar salad in the picture really doesn't look too big but let me assure you that it is. In fact, it may have just been my dinner on a night last weekend when I was feeling particularly lazy. Like, there's-no-food-in-the-house-but-I'm-not-going-grocery-shopping kind of lazy. So I had lettuce, old bread, and a few other staples in the house. Cue: caesar salad for dinner.

Have you ever made caesar salad dressing before?

Why do we even buy dressings in the store anymore??

This salad dressing was impossibly easy to make plus made me feel great that I wasn't downing some store-bought, preservative-packed dressing that I probably would have poured too much onto my salad anyway (aren't we all guilty of that?). It still boggles my mind how we forgot that anything prepackaged in our homes could also be made from scratch.

Anyway, this salad took me a whole 10 minutes to make using ingredients I already had in the kitchen (score!). Do recipes with raw eggs and anchovies scare you? Too bad. Take the risk, its worth it. And no, caesar salad does not taste like anchovies. I promise you its all in your head!

The Pairing

Now onto the important stuff...the beer pairing! Just like this recipe, the beer you pair with it should always be stocked in your fridge: a Munich Helles Lager.

What's that, you ask? I had the same reaction when I first learned about this beer that happens to be the most popular beer style in Bavaria. "Helles" in German means "light", so essentially this is the German equivalent to the light beers we drink here in America...except the Germans actually keep the flavors in their light beers (ooooh...burn).

Helles Lager accounts for about half of Germany's beer consumption because it is light, refreshing, and easy to drink. The style originated in Munich in 1895 by the Spaten Brewery to compete with Pilsner-style beers. Unlike German Pilsner, Helles Lager emphasizes on malt sweetness rather than bittering hops; the beer isn't sweet by any means, but the hops just balance the beer rather than provide a bitter edge. I like to describe these beers as "bready", and the style happens to be one of my go-to's for simple meals like this (and thus why I always have some in the fridge).

And that, my friends, is exactly why we are pairing a Munich Helles Lager with this Caesar Salad instead of a regular ol' Pilsner. Most well-made Pilsners these days contain substantial hop bitterness which might overwhelm this dish. A Munich Helles Lager is light enough to complement the salad while providing carbonation to calm down the bright acidity from the dressing. The lager's "bready"  nature also goes great with the croutons. You could almost say the beer acts as an additional crouton to the salad (and there is no such thing as too many croutons). Like I first said, this pairing is a simple one, but oh is it good.

Examples of Munich Helles Lager

  • Weihenstephaner Original (used in this post!)
  • Spaten Premium Lager
  • Paulaner Premium Lager

If you don't have access to any of these beers, go ahead and pop open your favorite Pilsner with this salad and it will still be delicious. If you have any session beers or "light" versions of beers as well, those will work too. I particularly love the entire lineup of Session Ales from Full Sail Brewing.

The Recipe

If you already have some store-bought Caesar salad dressing in your fridge, go ahead and use it for this pairing, I don't mind! But I'm telling you--homemade is sooooo much better and so easy to make. Thanks to my husband's unusual love for anchovies, we have plenty of canned ones in the pantry. I can't go near the stuff, so I keep a handy tube of anchovy paste stocked for any recipes that call for it. Anchovy paste can be found in any grocery store near the canned anchovies.

Classic Caesar Salad

Author:

Dani

Prep time:

35 mins

Cook time:

3 mins

Total time:

38 mins

Serves:

2 Salads

Serves 2 (or 1 very hungry person!) Original recipe adapted from simplyrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • A few thin slices of baguette (3-4 slices per serving)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (or one anchovy)
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon, cut in half for juicing
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Mince the garlic cloves very fine and add them to a large bowl with the olive oil. Let sit for 30 minutes (and get yourself a beer!)
  2. Meanwhile, make the croutons: brush the baquette lightly either with butter or a bit of the garlic-oil mixture. Place under a broiler for about 3 minutes, until golden and crispy.
  3. After the oil has sat for 30 minutes, add the egg, anchovy paste, and parmesan. Squeeze one half of a lemon into the bowl and whisk to combine. Taste, and add more lemon juice as needed. I used about 3/4 of a lemon total. Taste again and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  4. Break up the lettuce leaves with your hands and toss in with the dressing, coating all the lettuce leaves well. Place the salad into bowls and break the toasted baquette slices over to create croutons (you can also leave some full slices on the side like I did).
  5. Shave additional parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

3.5.3208

Thirsty for More? Try these Pairings!

Battered Fish and Chips Paired with Cream Ale

Homemade Brownies Paired with Sweet Stout

Whiskey Barbecue Chicken Paired with Pale Ale

Pair Ahi Tuna Salad with Japanese Lager

Oh my goodness, what a week. First, I apologize I haven’t posted in 3 weeks. Second, I’m engaged! Yay! I don’t intend to make this blog too personal…but I just have to share a picture!

Andrew proposed on the top of mount charleston during the sunset. The view was absolutely gorgeous. I don't think he could have done any better...

Anyway, a lot has happened in the last 3 weeks that has interfered with this blog. However, some of the experiences will lead to some GREAT future blog posts. But for now, here’s a great recipe Andrew, my new fiancé, and I made that was simple, healthy, and made for a really good Sunday evening dinner on a hot night:

The Pairing

Pairings do not have to be complicated. This pairing that I’ve chosen for the Tuna Salad is the simplest I’ve chosen for the blog so far. But I did it on purpose; to show that you don’t need to make things complicated if you don’t want to!

There are three Japanese lagers that are readily available to us Americans—Sapporo, Kirin, and Asahi. What is the distinction between the three? Not much…the difference is very subtle. BUT the thing these three have in common, which is the most important to this pairing, is that they are very dry. What in the world does that mean? Think about taking a sip of beer. The beer can be refreshing—it is high in carbonation and doesn’t really leave any lingering taste in the back of your mouth after you finish that sip. That defines a dry beer—one that is refreshing and finishes clean. Actual flavor is low which makes for a great pairing with light dishes. Japanese beers are notoriously “dry” because there is a high amount of rice used to make them. It also makes them great with spicy foods and sushi.

I chose these Japanese beers with this salad because, although the dish wasn’t crazy spicy, it fit the theme. This salad is light, healthy, and in a way, refreshing. Drinking a Japanese lager with that enhances the whole experience!

The Recipe

Andrew and I decided to try this Ahi Tuna Salad recipe on a whim; as I mentioned earlier, it was a 100 degree day and all we wanted was something easy to make and fresh. I found it over on The Enchanted Cook's blog. This recipe was pretty easy, you just need to make a trip to the store for those ahi steaks and a few oddball ingredients that we didn't have. The whole meal took less than 30 minutes though! Enjoy this with any of the Japanese Beers I suggested or any other light lager that is rice-based and not too hoppy.

Other Pairing Suggestions

  • Kirin Extra Dry, Saporro, Orion, or Asahi Japanese Lagers
  • Rogue Brewery's Morimoto Soba Ale
  • Champagne (Brut)
  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad with Sesame Dressing

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 3 mins

Total time: 18 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Ahi Tuna Steaks (I had to use frozen since I live in the desert, but try to get fresh ones)
  • 4 Cups mixed salad greens
  • 2-3 Tbsp shelled edamame seeds (optional but definitely worth it)
  • 1/2 diced red bell pepper
  • fresh lime (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 Cup plus 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tahini paste
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. First make the dressing. Whisk together rice vinegar, sesame oil, tahini paste, honey, garlic, ginger and 1/2 tsp salt until well combined. Proportions make about 1/2 Cup sauce total, make more if you want to really drench your tuna steaks in them.
  2. Assemble the salad: Place salad greens, red bell pepper, and edamame in a bowl along with a little of the dressing. Mix them all together to coat with the dressing. Place mixture on two plates.
  3. MIx together the sesame seeds and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Sprinkle the Tuna Steaks with Kosher salt, then dredge them in the sesame mixture, covering both sides. Pat the sides of the tuna with your hands to make sure the seeds stick to it.
  4. Heat the canola oil in a pan until it becomes very hot! Sear the steaks on each side for approximately 45 seconds. Remove from the pan, slice, and place on top of the salad. Squeeze lime over steaks right before eating. Use the remaining dressing as a dipping sauce or drizzle more over the salad.

 

Dijon Vinaigrette Tomato Salad with Rosé

Spring this year has been absolutely gorgeous here in Las Vegas. I can't think of any other season where we've gone so long without having the heat or the air conditioning on...the days get as high as 90 and as low as 65...when you're used to 100+ degrees by May, you are thankful every moment the cool weather lasts! It's a perfect time to get ready for hot-weather dishes too--I've been getting out of my oven-recipes routine and preparing for grill season!

When I first started thinking about doing this blog, this was one of the first recipes that came to mind. This is a recipe from the French side of my family... specifically, my Aunt Simone's.  It's funny, my Dad didn't cook very often, but when he wanted his French-food-fix, he was in the kitchen. When I asked my family to share some recipes with me when I wanted to learn how to cook, this was the first one my Dad wrote :) I can barely read the recipe anymore since it has been used so much and has taken to lots of oil and water spills in the kitchen!

The greatest thing about this recipe is it is simple, yet so flavorful. Do you have peanut oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard? BOOM! You can make this salad. The longer you let it marinate, the better it will be. But if you need to make a salad in a snap, it is also good right away.

Now lets talk Dijon mustard here...growing up, we never messed with any dull-flavored generic "yellow" mustard in my household. Every trip to France my Dad would take, he'd load up an ENTIRE suitcase of Amora mustard, the typical mustard you find in a French grocery store. Now let me tell you, you HAVE NOT had mustard until you try this stuff! There's so much more kick to it, it definitely changes any dish you add it to for the better. Luckily for a thing called the internet, you don't have to go to France to get it. Its available online at amazon and FrenchyBee.com, and if you spend $50, you get it shipped free! (Stock up on some whole-grain mustard and awesome jams from this website too while you're at it.)

The Pairing

This salad will go with many meals or, as the French would do, can be a separate course altogether. Dry rosé is a perfect pairing...seriously, when I first had the two together, it was such an "AHA!" moment. Vinegar-based dressings can be really difficult to pair with drinks...forget anything heavier than a light red wine. (Vinegar will make reds taste bitter.) Rosé, however, is usually packed with ripping acidity that will go hand-in-hand with the acidity from the vinaigrette. Add some fruitiness from the wine to complement the natural sugars in the tomatoes and cucumbers, and you have a perfect pairing.

Keep in mind I'm suggesting DRY rosé with this, not something sweet like white zinfandel. White zinfandel, or any sweet wine, is not going to work with this. Can you imagine having a starburst candy with a pickle? Eww. If you only drink sweet wine, this is your chance to try something dry that will taste good because it goes so well with the food you're eating! The rosé I chose was a $9 (yes, only $9) bottle I found at Total Wine. It was actually a little difficult to choose just one, there were so many under $15 that probably would have worked perfectly! Ultimately I chose it because it is a rosé from the Anjou region of the Loire Valley in France...a region I know I couldn't have gone wrong with. But there are countless other options (just see below for recommendations).

If you're unfamiliar with dry rosé, it is the perfect wine for many meals that are too light for a red wine but need a bit more than a white. Made from red grapes (or a blend), wineries press it like white wine but will allow a little color to bleed from the skins into the wine, giving it a nice pink hue. Unfortunately wines like white Zinfandel have given it a bad reputation in this country. However, rosé is really one of the most versatile wines and should always be a staple in your wine inventory--it will come to the rescue whenever you have a difficult-to-pair dish or just really feel like having a refreshing wine (especially on a hot day!).

 Other Pairing Suggestions

Try these Rosés from my favorite regions:

  • Tavel, France (my #1 choice)
  • Rhone Valley, France
  • Loire Valley, France (Anjou-Saumur, Sancerre)
  • Southern France (Languedoc)
  • Spanish Rosé

Don't have any rosé in the cellar? Try these alternatives:

  • Sauvignon Blanc--Chilean, New Zealand, or French are great options
  • Pinot Gris/Grigio--French, Italian, Oregon
  • Hefeweizen or other wheat beer
  • Gueuze (beer)

Dijon Vinaigrette Tomato Salad

Prep time: 15 mins

Total time: 15 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1/2 Vidalia (sweet, white) Onion
  • 1 tsp good Dijon Mustard (do not use course mustard)
  • 1/2 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Peanut Oil
  • Oregano and Fresh Parsley

Instructions

  1. Slice the tomatoes, cucumber and sweet onion as thin as possible. Place them in layers in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together the white vinegar, peanut oil, and dijon mustard. Add oregano and parsley as you desire (can easily be made with both, one, or none of the herbs).
  3. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Mix vegetables in with it if they are not completely submerged.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or even longer to really soak in the vinaigrette. This salad is also excellent, but not as fresh, the next day.

Serve with crusty French bread and butter, and don't forget the rosé!

-Dani