cannot think about black bean soup without thinking
about the woman who taught me how to make it. She
was 180 pounds of soul in her shiny combat boots 20
years before Doc Martin's adorned the more slight
of foot creatures that track South Beach.
Her name is Betty. She was the breakfast cook at The
Pier House Restaurant in 1978 when I was brought in
to assist her. It was like having a female Lou Gossett
Jr. as your unofficial tour guide to hell's kitchen.
When you are a breakfast cook your day starts out
with a sense of sheer panic. The alarm clock seems
to gyrate your aortic valve. You fear every minute
you delay getting set up will multiply the number
of eggs you will be ordered to make by a factor of
500. I was always relieved when breakfast officially
ended and it was time to make the lunch menu come
together...and one of my jobs was to make the Black
It also meant that Betty would get her allotment of
two 16 ounce Busch beers which had an ability to reverse
the string of colorfully graphic instructions she
would have directed at me for the previous four hours
into a comically sweet, mischievous flirtation.
The way Betty taught me to make black bean soup dramatically
affected my cooking. I was reading French classical
recipes where you often started a sauce with a mirepoix
of leeks, carrots, celery and white onions. Delicate
in contrast to the bacon, bell peppers, garlic, red
onions, spices and chilies that were the foundation
of our black bean soup. I realized that many of the
sauces that I would eventually make to go with the
robust flavors of our New World Cuisine would begin
with these "bean soup" vegetables.
Black Bean Soup. Thanks Betty! I owe ya a beer...and
Without a doubt this is history* most unconquerable
of all Caesars!
Go anywhere in the U.S. and this is the one salad
from truck stops to haute spots, outside of a "small
tossed" you are most likely to encounter.
There are fairly worthy contenders that could have
been king. The Cobb Salad, the Waldorf salad, HEY!,
what about the Chefs Salad!?!
But no. You can go to a Latin-Caribbean chicken fast
food restaurant here in Miami or an Oriental diner
in Oklahoma and Caesar would be rendering onto you.
And the story did not start in old Italia, but was
created by an Italian immigrant in Tijuana, Mexico
named Alex-Caesar Cardini on the Fourth of July weekend
of 1924. It seems Mr. Cardini had a series of restaurants
there in Tijuana, one of which was named "Caesar's
The salad became very popular with Hollywood stars
who visited Tijuana. The Caesar salad was once voted
by the International Society of Epicures in Paris
as the "Greatest recipe to originate from the Americas
in fifty years."
Back in 1995 we decided to re-test the Caesar salad
dressing for my first book, "A Feast of Sunlight".
Our recipe testing results caused us to fine tune
it a bit. The testing of a recipe really gets you
inside the structure and balance between ingredients
and that is the beauty of a properly made Caesar;
When you are working with things as robust as anchovies,
mustard, garlic and Parmesan it's important that there
is the proper proportioning going on or it won't be
the conquest you'd hoped to achieve with any Caesar.
*Works consulted: Memory Lane.