Not long ago, when kale was on its way to becoming the hottest vegetable around, someone had the bright idea to swap the hearty green in for romaine in a classic Caesar salad. At the time I thought this was brilliant — coat kale in creamy, cheesy Caesar dressing, pile it with croutons, and everyone will eat it.
But there are only so many kale Caesar salads one can eat. And the truth is that there are a whole slew of romaine alternatives for Caesar that work just as well as, if not better than, kale. So I argue we all push kale aside and try these five new Caesar salad bases instead.
You have a few options when it comes to making a broccoli Caesar. You can either shave raw broccoli or use broccoli slaw to create a raw, slaw-like salad with extra crunch, or you can toss roasted or steamed florets with Caesar dressing for a cooked twist on the classic. Either way, it's a surefire way to get anyone to eat their broccoli.
Who says Caesar has to be green? Pretty purple radicchio plays well here because it's not only hearty, but it's also a little bitter. That bitterness is the perfect contrast to the rich and creamy dressing, making for a Caesar that's a lot more balanced than the classic.
3. Brussels Sprouts
You don't need lettuce when you have Brussels sprouts. When shaved thin, they make an awesome base for just about any salad, and their crunchy, slaw-like texture means they can hold their own when tossed with thick Caesar dressing.
Like radicchio, escarole is just bitter enough to play with heavy Caesar dressing. It's also extra crisp and juicy, so you're guaranteed to get that nice crunch that only a great Caesar salad has.
Thin slices of fennel, with its delicate anise flavor, bring a little something new to the Caesar salad game. Raw fennel is a great base all on its own, but a handful is also nice to toss in with any of the other salad bases mentioned above.