Anything that features garlic and hard Italian cheese in a starring role is on my stuff-to-eat list. I love Caesars, but there are some challenges to creating a great new Caesar: 1. Isn’t the point of a Caesar salad that you already know exactly what’s in it? and 2. SOME PEOPLE don’t like anchovies.

So I could have done a wrap or a pizza or something that puts the Caesar into bread somehow – again, yummy – but I’m really trying to make myself eat more salad, so instead I tried to find a way to make a beautiful, different sort of Caesar. The payoff came from knocking off two recipes at once: a gorgeous use of endive from a Christmas present cookbook by Dave Lieberman, and a Caesar-inspired vinaigrette from Michael Chiarello. Presented below is the mashed-up recipe I created from them.

Despite this being my entry for HHDD #12: Caesar Salad, I’ve realized since I made it that this isn’t actually a Caesar at all. It doesn’t have anchovies because of SOME PEOPLE and there’s no egg. There isn’t even any bread. But if you like citrus, love cheese and are a sucker for a fun presentation, this is the salad for you.

Endive Lettuce Cups with Citrus Vinaigrette and Frico

Citrus “Caesar” Vinaigrette
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon TJ’s Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon fresh coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup pure olive oil (or to your own vinegar-olive oil ratio taste)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Chop the garlic and mash with the lemon zest and salt to create a paste. Put the paste in a bowl and whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, Worchestershire, hot sauce and pepper. Whisking quickly, add the olive oil in a light stream until the the vinaigrette has your preferred consistency. Stir in the parmesan and set aside at room temperature.

Endive Cups
2-3 large heads of endive
1/2 head radicchio
3-4 ounces baby arugula

Wash all the lettuce well. Take the largest, nicest leaves off the outside of the endives. If they are large, plan on 1-2 per person; if they are small, like mine were, plan on 3-4 per person. Arrange the leaves like cups on your serving platter.

Shred the radicchio, arugula and remaining endive and toss. The lettuces need to be cut small in order to stay in the endive cups. Divide the lettuce between the reserved endive leaves.

Frico
Your goal is one long, thin frico cracker per endive cup. The amount of parmesan you need to accomplish this will vary, so just have a good store of shredded, not grated, parmesan by your side. Those shreds should be fairly large. I used the small side of the box grater but not the microplane.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Carefully put 1-2 tablespoons of parmesan into a long, narrow strip in the pan. You can do more than one at a time. Heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, then remove the pan from the heat for 1 minute. Slowly and gently, peel the frico from the bottom of the pan and flip it. Return the pan to the heat and cook for one more minute, then carefully remove the frico from the pan to a paper towel to cool. Repeat until you have enough frico for all your endive cups.

Top the endive cups with vinaigrette, then give each cup a salty and deliciously crispy frico cracker. Serve immediately.

Learn from my mistakes:
1. Get the biggest endive heads that you can find. Mine were tiny, and they barely held any lettuce at all. Getting the frico to balance in the endive cups was a challenge, too, given their diminutive size.
2. Don’t try to use a nonstick pan that has a nubbly bottom, like my Calphalon, for the frico. The shreds go into the nubs and it’s just a mess.
3. Frico don’t keep, not even for a 10-minute trip in the car. By the time I took my prepared creation over to Matthew’s for dinner, they had gone a little soft. Have the endive cups ready-to-go before you make the frico, and serve immediately.
4. If you don’t have PEOPLE who don’t like anchovies, you could certainly mash some in with the garlic and salt. They’d be delicious.

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