All the flavors of a Caesar salad are here: garlic, anchovy, Parm, and olive oil, in quite outgoing proportions. The difference between this and a more textbook Caesar is not only that I’ve swapped out the romaine for antastically crunchy celery, but also that this dressing is more of a free-flowing vinaigrette that coats every slice. Instead of croutons, there are tender, salty olives and vinegary peppers.
Another firm green olive, such as Cerignola or Lucques, can replace the Castelvetranos.
Use pickled pepperoncini instead of piparra peppers (pepperoncini are spicier, though, so adjust as needed).
Trade fennel, peeled celery root, kohlrabi, romaine hearts, or Little Gems for the celery.
If you don’t like parsley, leave it out.
Replace anchovy with 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard instead.
White wine vinegar can replace the lemon juice.
Gochugaru can replace the Aleppo pepper, or use ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
Use Grana Padano instead of Parmigiano.
- In a mortar and pestle or mini chopper, combine the anchovies and garlic with a big pinch of salt and many grinds of black pepper. Pulverize until a paste forms. (Alternatively, you can finely chop the anchovies and garlic together on a cutting board, then season with salt and black pepper and use the flat edge of the knife blade to smash the ingredients into a paste.) Scrape into a medium bowl and whisk in lemon juice, olive oil, and Aleppo pepper until combined. Taste and season with more salt and black pepper, if needed.
- Use the flat side of a chef’s knife to smash the olives and loosen the pits, then tear the flesh into 2 or 3 pieces (discard pits). Cut peppers in half lengthwise, then halve crosswise. Place the olives and peppers in a salad bowl. Trim the celery at both ends, then separate the bunch into individual stalks; wash and dry. Snap off the light green leaves from innermost stalks and set those aside. Cut the celery into very thin slices on a dramatic angle, then transfer to the bowl with the olives and peppers. Use a vegetable peeler to shave half the Parmigiano over. Add most of the dressing and toss with your hands to coat. Add the parsley and reserved celery leaves and toss gently to combine. Shave the other half of the Parm over, drizzle with dressing, and top with a few more grinds of black pepper.