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July 12, 2017

Summer Salad and a Book: #HomemadeCaesarSalad and #BirdBoxReview

by Alison DeLuca

“How about homemade Caesar Salad?”

fresh salad greens
image courtesy of Pixabay

We just made our annual trip to Lake of the Ozarks, where we stay with lots of cousins and uncles and aunts. Since it’s such a large group, we trade off cooking one meal for the everyone. And each year, I spend weeks trolling Pinterest for recipes that will feed a huge crew.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

This summer I was clueless. Should I make lasagna? (Too hot.) Chili? (Too blah.) My brilliant idea was homemade pizzas until our host ordered pizza for everyone the night before I had to cook. That ended that.

At a loss, I considered PB&J’s or cold cereal until I had a brainwave. “How about homemade Caesar Salad?” I asked the host. “With side toppings everyone can add to create a personal entrĂ©e?”

This idea got an enthusiastic thumbs’ up. I made my own dressing and croutons. A dish of shrimp and one of roast chicken flanked the display to turn it into a do-it-yourself bar.

Not only did the family eat up every scrap, one person told me the dressing was the best he’d ever eaten. And – guess what?

The recipe is super easy, and there are no raw eggs in the dressing.

Here it is so you can offer a fresh take on summer with your family and friends:

Caesar Salad Bar

4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup + extra olive oil
At least 4 cups bread cubes cut from an Italian loaf
Fresh-ground pepper
Finely grated Parmesan, as fresh as possible
1 lemon
Worcestershire sauce
Good-quality mayonnaise (I used 8 ounces of Sir Kensington’s classic)
At least 3 hearts of romaine (no matter how much lettuce you prep, they will eat it)
Shrimp (I used 2 bags of 16-20 cooked and frozen)
Rotisserie chicken

Process the 4 cloves of garlic; as the machine is running, add the ¼ cup of olive oil. Run the processor for at least a minute. Set aside to allow the garlic to soak into the oil for another 5 minutes. 

Strain oil with fine-mesh strainer, reserving the processed garlic.

Prep lettuce. Tear into bite-size pieces, wash well in a spinner, and put into a large salad bowl. Store in the fridge under a damp paper towel to keep it fresh.

Prep the dressing: squeeze the lemon into a small container. Whisk 1 cup of mayonnaise, at least 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire, half the reserved minced garlic, one tablespoon Parmesan, and a touch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings (I suggest you try a little dressing on one leaf of the lettuce you just prepped.)

Cut up the rotisserie chicken into small pieces and place on a platter.

Prep the croutons. Put the cubes of bread into a large bowl and shake half the garlic-infused olive oil over them. Stir, repeat.

Prep two frying pans. Coat them with 1 tablespoon olive oil in each pan and put over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the garlic to one and thaw the shrimp in the mix. Stir repeatedly until the shrimp is warmed through.

Put the coated bread cubes in the other. Stir repeatedly until the bread cubes are browned on all sides.
Serve the salad with the dressing on the side, the chicken and shrimp on platters, and the croutons in the big bowl for your guests to add. 

You can also put out extra cheese, the pepper shaker, and lemon wedges so they can personalize as they wish. Dishes of fresh parsley, sliced cucumbers, walnuts, and fresh summer tomatoes are all nice touches as well.


cover of Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

After all that slicing and dicing, you definitely deserve some Me Time. How about a novel filled with thrills, tension, and constant emotion?

I loaded up the Kindle before our plane ride, but Bird Box stood out as a novel I Could. Not. Put. Down.

This post-apocalyptic novel is set inside a house, where several survivors cower with a diminishing supply of canned food. One of them, Malorie, is pregnant when she arrives at the house – a perilous journey, since going outside with your eyes open makes you insane.

In order to get to a safer place, Malorie has to escape with her two children, known as Boy and Girl. They must travel twenty miles in a boat on the river behind the house – all while being blindfolded.

The unseen menace creates a rising sense of danger that never degrades when the monsters come out of the shadows – because they can’t. One sight of them, so the theory goes, drives humans into a murderous and suicidal frenzy.

In order to reach safety without killing herself or her children, Malorie cannot lift her blindfold.
No matter what happens.

The author, Josh Malerman, is the lead singer for The High Strung. His writing style is simple, not overblown at all. I found it perfect for the devastating story he tells. In fact, Malorie’s POV is told so well I was convinced the book had been written by a female.

Not only is the book exciting, it also touches some very interesting themes, including trust and, more importantly, what it means to be a parent. Motherhood, Malorie discovers, quickly changes in the face of disaster.

Enjoy the dinner and the book, but you might want to leave the lights on.

Buy Bird Box at Amazon

What are you reading this summer?

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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  1. What a wonderful title for a book, and a great cover
    Thanks Donna for the recommendation

  2. I don't often see a recipe combined with a book review. Both the salad and the book seem delicious!