Mark’s Caesar Salad

Thanks to Smucky, Mark has become obsessed with Gordon Ramsay. Here is something you may not know about us: we don’t have cable or satellite TV. Other than a couple of years in high school, I have never had cable. In college and a few years after, back when TVs had antennae, I had network television, which I watched occasionally, but I’ve always preferred reading to watching television, and frankly, when we were no longer able to get even network stations, I didn’t miss it. We just stream stuff from Netflix and are plenty happy with that. However, whenever we are around cable television, such as our parents’ houses or hotels, we each have a couple of things we fight over watching. For me, it was always the Food Network. For Mark, it’s aliens. Frankly, I think the Food Network might be the MTV of the 21st century: do they have any shows about COOKING FOOD these days, or is it all just reality television? I don’t even bother trying to watch it any more. I never really watched it that much to begin with because it seemed like Paula Deen was always on and she gives me convulsions.

Anyway, Mark would always change the channel away from food as soon as I wasn’t looking. But Smucks loves Gordon Ramsay and when he was here last, he somehow got Mark stuck on Gordon Ramsay as well. Since then, Mark has been taking his Sunday meals up a notch. I’ll be honest with you: I’m surprised how good Mark is at cooking and that he hasn’t yet lost interest in making Sunday dinners. Apparently I have Ramsay to thank.

The first meal or two Mark made, he slavishly followed recipes he had found online, but one thing I’m really impressed by is how he’s been improvising since then. There’s no one way to cook, and I rarely help him, but I think he’s actually picking up my techniques, so I keep telling him he’s doing it right. He had asked me earlier if Caesar salad was okay for dinner, so I wasn’t surprised that was what he made tonight, but I was surprised by how great it looked:

He was particularly proud of the dressing, so I asked how he made it, thinking he’d give me a link to the recipe, but to my surprise he told me he didn’t know; he just made it up. I am so proud! Because it was really, really good! Fortunately for you, after we finished our meals, he remembered the recipe, so I’m going to share it with you.

Mark’s “Chicken” Caesar Salad
serves 2

2-3 heads romaine lettuce
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, quartered
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
a sprinkling of shredded vegan mozzarella (we recommend Daiya)
3 Gardein chick’n scallopini


1/2 cup olive oil
a little less than 1 Tbsp [vegan] mayonnaise (I told Mark this was called “scant”, but he told me to write it like he said it)
1 Tbsp “normal” vinegar
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
splash of white wine
splash of red wine vinegar
a bunch of coarsely-ground black pepper
some salt
some more pepper

Blend together all of the dressing ingredients except the “some more pepper”. Mark hates mayonnaise and wants me to stress to you: DO NOT USE TOO MUCH MAYONNAISE OR IT WILL BE DISGUSTING. He used it to create a little creaminess, but he was very wary of it. If you use too much mayonnaise, you’ll have to add extra lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and pepper to mask the horribleness of the mayonnaise, Mark says. The dominant flavor of this dressing was the garlic (the house smelled deliciously of garlic; it was making me hungry!), but it’s not overpowering…although I suspect you had better be a garlic lover. After blending, taste and adjust the ingredients until it’s perfect, then add more coarse pepper. Set aside while the flavors blend.

Meanwhile, grill or pan-fry the “chicken”; we use a George Foreman grill. When it is done, slice into long strips.

Remove 4 or 5 of the best romaine leaves per serving and arrange in each bowl. Chop the rest of the lettuce and place in the bowls. Prepare the rest of the vegetables and arrange them neatly in each bowl. Top with the croutons and mozzarella. Drizzle with the dressing. According to Mark, Ramsay is big on presentation, and Mark’s been paying a lot of attention to it. See above for his amazing results! It not only looked great, but it tasted great.

I am also supposed to tell you that Mark included the mustard in his dressing because he learned from Alton Brown that mustard has scientific properties that bind oil and vinegar. I’ve always wanted to watch Alton Brown, but never managed to be around cable television at a time when he was on, until very recently Mark found and downloaded a bunch of Good Eats, the non-meat-tastic episodes of which we’ve watched a few. Yeah, that’s the first time I ever saw the show; we are SO not with the times in this household.

The other big news from today is we released the first three raccoons of the season! Raheema thought she was ready to go as soon she got to the outside enclosures (she wasn’t really ready then), but we had to wait until a few good days of weather were forecast. Which hasn’t been easy: our county flooded much worse than I’ve ever seen on Thursday. I was hoping we could do it today while I was there, and I was lucky!

We’re fortunate that we can release animals right on the wildlife sanctuary grounds so we can do soft releases. That means the raccoons are welcome to return to their enclosure for as long as they’d like (within reason), and they’ll be fed there during that time if they wish. So all we do is just open a little raccoon-sized door on the outside wall of their enclosure. We were a little surprised Raheema didn’t bolt out as soon as we opened it. I don’t think she realized what was happening at first.

It didn’t take her long to figure it out.

The first thing she did was climb her neighbor’s cage.

And two minutes later, she was back in the cage!

She went back and forth a few times, then we eventually lost track of her, because we were watching her brothers, Quivet and Quebec, who finally decided to join the fray:

Raccoons love climbing.

Compared to the tiny babies I bottle-fed a few months ago, these kits looked so BIG to me in their outdoor enclosures. But once in the great big outdoors, they looked so tiny again! I’m confident they have what it takes to survive though and am very happy for them!


  1. Mark Said,

    September 11, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

    I like Ramsey because he curses a lot. I like cursing.

  2. Josiane Said,

    September 12, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    Wow, Mark’s plating skills are impressive! I’m pretty sure that’s the most appetizing Caesar salad I’ve ever seen. I’m usually too lazy to take the time to make food look pretty, so I really admire those who do.
    Those raccoons are so cute! And I still find it sweet that you had one named Québec. 🙂

  3. Vic (The Life) Said,

    September 12, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    Those raccoons are too cute!

  4. Erin Said,

    September 13, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

    Mark has mad salad skills! And the racoons are so, so cute.

  5. Alyssia Said,

    September 13, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

    I lol every single time I read one of his recipes or when you post hilarious pictures of him!

    That salad does look extremely delicious!

  6. lea Said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

    Looks delish! And I love the way the recipe is written! Kind of reminds me of Sam the Cooking Guy- have you ever seen him?

  7. Jes Said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

    Raccoon release! Oh my goodness, they look so in their element. Must have been wonderful and hard at the same time.

    As for Gordon Ramsey–you *must* watch the South Park Food Network/Shake Weight episode. G & I almost lost it laughing so hard. Seriously, Mark will love it given his new obsession.

    The caesar looks killer good, kudos to Mark!

  8. Jenny Said,

    September 18, 2011 @ 11:37 am

    I am a huge fan of caesar salads. Yours (his) is so pretty! I’ve been reading through your blog for the past half hour, and I’ve found so many great things…the raccoons, the avocado pizza, the White Pig visit, etc. I’ve never watched any Good Eats, but I’ll look for them.

  9. Zoa Said,

    September 18, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    This raccoon thing is so very cool! I bow down with impressed-ness. Lord, those little guys are so cute! Plus, the Caeser salad recipe looks fantastic. I’m almost ready to splurge on those Gardein things just to replicate it. But I must disagree with Mark in that mayonnaise/Veganaise is in no way disgusting, no matter how much of it you use. In fact, the more you use, the higher into the stratosphere of deliciousness you shoot, but of course that’s just my opinion. I don’t have a TV–like you, I download from various sources if I want to watch something, but I do go to the gym every day, and the Food Network is playing on a surprising number of the machines (okay, I’m so pathetic, I don’t even know how to change the channel on the machines) and more often than I’d like to admit I am lured away from *A Dance to the Music of Time* or *Bel Canto* on my iPod to watch some freaky chef-type make gumbo in his studio kitchen or whatever…never seen Gordon Ramsay though. He must be on prime time…

  10. muck Said,

    September 24, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

    See tiny? Chef Ramsay is pretty great

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