“Mom, this is the best salad you have ever made…” says my 11 year old. This summer, while spending his days on the golf course followed by swimming at the pool at our nearby country club, Ben developed a love for Caesar salads. Traditional chicken Caesar salad usurped his usual order of chicken strips with honey mustard and fries – he made a step in the right direction in my book by adding in some greens.
But chicken Caesar salad is not gluten free, so to make his new favorite at home, I decided to come up with my own gluten, grain, and dairy free version. Ben gives this recipe two thumbs up (he and his two friends walked into the kitchen right after I made this salad, and the three of them quickly polished it off), and so do I because not only is it made with healthy whole food ingredients, but it was super easy to make when in a pinch for time.
And most evenings, I am just that – pinched for time. To make life a little easier, I picked up a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods to use for the salad. Their chickens are pasture fed and gluten free and $2 cheaper on Wednesdays.
The most tedious part of making this salad is removing the chicken meat from the chicken carcass. Kayley and I have gotten quite speedy at this process after volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house where our main job was to remove the meat from 5 birds and chop it for sliders. Our first chicken was a mess…we were s-l-o-w and wasted a good deal of the chicken. But then we got in a rhythm and discovered the best way to do it was just to dig in with our fingers and pull off anything that resembled meat and set it aside to chop later.
I have a big stockpot that I put any part that is not meat – the skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, etc., so I can make a large batch of bone broth to use in making a soup for dinner the next day. Real bone broth is soooooooo much better than the boxed or canned version. And it’s one of the most healing foods for your body, as it’s chocked full of gelatin, collagen, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamino glycans, and lots of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Homemade bone broth is good for healing your gut lining and building strong bones and joints, and it’s beautifying too – nourishing your skin, hair, and nails. After pulling off all the meat, I placed the entire carcass in the pot with the rest of the shrapnel I’d already pulled off, filled the pot with purified water and a splash of apple cider vinegar (helps to leach out the minerals and goodness from the bones), and let it simmer on the stove for the next day.
Now for the romaine lettuce…the morning before serving the salad, I cut off the end of the head of romaine and thoroughly washed the leaves. I like to lay the washed leaves out on a stream of paper towels and then roll up the paper towels with the leaves inside. I lay the rolled up leaves in the refrigerator to crisp throughout the day. Romaine lettuce is definitely my kids’ favorite green because it’s crisp and refreshing without the bitter taste of some of the other greens. And it’s one of my favorites to use because they will actually eat it, getting in a serving of those nutrient dense leafy greens which are the most lacking in most of our diets.
When ready to make the salad, I chopped the romaine and placed it in a medium sized salad bowl.
Next…on to the dressing. I used my Vitamix to make the Caesar dressing with olive oil, water, 2 egg yolks, 2 cloves of minced garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and some pine nuts as a substitution for Parmesan. The dressing initially tastes pretty salty but once on the salad it’s delicious.
The only thing left to do is to layer the romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, another sprinkle of pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper in a salad bowl. I drizzled on about half of the dressing and tossed the salad. After tasting, I drizzled on a little more dressing and tossed the salad again. Perfect. I saved the remaining dressing in the fridge where it will be good for about 3 -5 days.
- 1-2 heads romaine lettuce, depending on the size of the head
- 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and chopped
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Tear off leaves of romaine lettuce, and wash. Lay flat on a stream of paper towels, and roll up leaves inside paper towels. Let crisp in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Remove meat from a rotisserie chicken and chop. Set aside.
- Remove lettuce from the refrigerator, and chop.
- In a medium sized salad bowl, layer chopped romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, ¼ cup pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
- In a Vitamix or other blender, blend together garlic, ¼ cup pine nuts, egg yolks, olive oil, water, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste and add more dressing if desired.
- Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.
- Save the remaining dressing in the refrigerator for 3 - 5 days for another use.