The Caesar born of a mistake

By Tim O’Connor

If you want a salad that is delicious and healthy, this is not the column for you. If want a salad that is delicious and that we pretend is healthy, you’re in luck.

The Caesar is my favourite salad, and let’s admit the lettuce is only there to hold the not-so-healthy bits. Honestly, I’d be happy to lose the lettuce and eat the rest with a soup spoon, but keeping the lettuce maintains the pretense that the Caesar is not the extravagance it really is – those baked croutons, bacon bits, anchovies and tons of the most umami cheese there is, parmesan. We all know we’re cheating when we eat a Caesar salad, but we accept it. The Caesar is the Bill Belichick of salads.

Today I’m mixing things up with a Caesar that’s vegan. I won’t claim it’s healthier, even though we replace the anchovies with kelp and the parm with nutritional yeast and make “bacon” from kohlrabi. We add capers and mustard and emulsify it in a blender while pouring in oil for that creamy consistency. It does a good job of mimicking a traditional Caesar.

I make cauliflower croutons with white flour, rye flour, yeast and water. And this vegan Caesar uses broccoli instead of romaine. I cut the broccoli into long florets and char them on a grill or in the oven.

I developed the recipe when I hosted a dinner party and realized I hadn’t gotten salad ingredients, so I used what I had. I had three heads of broccoli because I can’t resist a sale.

My dinner guests loved it and I thought, this is something I can put on our menu at Flora Hall. It’s been there all summer and everyone who has it says, “Oh my gosh, that’s so fun and fantastic and smart.”

I say, “It was a mistake, I was just trying to get rid of too much broccoli.” And that’s how my boastful, beautiful, (pretend) healthy Caesar was born.


Caesar Salad


1/4 cup chopped capers

Juice of 5 lemons

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp cracked pepper

2 tbsp chopped garlic

3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 sheet of nori, blitzed in spice grinder

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast


Combine ingredients except oil in blender.

Blitz and slowly drizzle in oil.


Cauliflower Croutons 


2 cups flour

1 cup rye flour

1 cup riced cauliflower

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 tbsp yeast

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt


Mix flours, salt and cauliflower and blitz.

Mix warm water, oil, yeast and sugar, then combine with blitzed mixture and form a dough.

Allow to double in size, then roll into ball.

Preheat oven to 425 (*degrees)F. Heat a cast iron pan or sheet pan for 15 minutes. Place dough ball on hot cast iron pan and bake in oven 45 minutes.


Kohlrabi Bacon Marinade


1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/8 cup tamari

2 tbsp smoked paprika


Combine ingredients and whisk until blended.


Tim O’Connor was raised in the Glebe and is head chef at Flora Hall Brewing.


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