Dairy-Free, Gluten-free: Could it BE? Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons!

This salad was a big hit at the last Gluten-free cooking class! The dressing is fresh but creamy and tangy. I’ve missed my caesar salads, because I don’t eat dairy, but now I don’t have to miss it anymore! Hopefully you won’t miss the traditional caesar either after trying this recipe:-)

3 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Croutons:

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups Basic Polenta, recipe follows
Vegetable oil, for deep frying

3 small heads romaine lettuce
1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 1/2 ounces shaved Parmesan


    To make the dressing:

Finely chop the garlic and anchovies in a food processor. Blend in the lemon juice and mustard. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the dressing, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    To make the croutons:

Spread the olive oil over a small baking sheet. Transfer the hot polenta to the baking sheet, spreading evenly to form an 8 by 5 by 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.
Cut the polenta into 3/4-inch cubes. Pat the polenta cubes dry with paper towels. Add enough vegetable oil to a heavy large frying pan to come 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil over high heat. Working in batches of 10, carefully add the polenta cubes to the oil 1 at a time and fry until golden brown, stirring to keep the cubes separate, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the polenta croutons to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
(The dressing and polenta croutons can be prepared 1 day ahead. Rewarm the polenta croutons on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees F oven before serving.)

    To make the salad:

Cut the lettuce into bite-size pieces.
On a serving platter, decoratively scatter the sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Drizzle with enough dressing to evenly coat. Sprinkle Parmesan and scatter the warm polenta croutons over and serve immediately.

*Note on pictured Polenta Croutons:
I used already cooked in a log polenta from Trader Joes… cut, slice, seasoned and broiled. But I honestly think polenta from scratch works better:

    Basic Polenta:

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is soft, stirring often for about 12-15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.
Lightly oil a half sheet pan. Transfer the hot polenta to the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly to 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

From here slice into squares (pizza cutter is great for this). If desired: BEFORE pouring in sheet pan- season with salt, pepper, garlic, oregano or italian seasonings, basically whatever sounds good! Now just follow frying directions above!

Bon Appétit!

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