Low fat caesar salad

A chicken Caesar salad can have as many calories as a burger.

Source: caloriecount.about.com
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Chicken caesar salad is a staple dish on many restaurant menus. Next time you think about ordering it, though, remember that just because something is called a salad it doesn't immediately make it a healthy choice. With the signature creamy dressing (made from mayonnaise and cheese), croutons that are likely to have been fried in butter or oil and a generous sprinkling of parmesan, this dish is often high in saturated fat and can notch up as many calories as a burger and fries.

Having said that, the premise of caesar salad is a healthy one and it is easy to take advantage of this at home. Lettuce is low in calories and rich in nutrients and romaine or cos lettuce (traditionally used in this dish) is especially good for you - it contains high levels of vitamin C, lutein (which protects against age-related macular degeneration) and carotene (thought to be helpful in fighting cancer). Cooked with minimal fat, skinless chicken breast is a good source of lean protein and even anchovies (love them or loathe them) have their health benefits; they are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Even if you're not a fan, do include them in the dressing; they are a natural flavour enhancer and add a unique umami kick.

Buy good-quality parmesan cheese for this recipe and grate it finely - that way you will use less and the dressing will still have plenty of pungent flavour. In the health stakes, granary bread tossed in a little olive oil before being baked in the oven is far preferable to deep-fried croutons.

Chicken caesar salad

Serves 2

For the chicken:

2 skinless chicken breasts

juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled

For the croutons:

2 tsp olive oil

2 slices granary bread

For the dressing:

garlic clove, peeled and chopped

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

2 tbsp plain low-fat yoghurt

2 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise

25g parmesan, grated

1 head romaine lettuce, leaves separated and washed

salt and black pepper

Place the chicken in a shallow dish. Lightly mash the garlic cloves. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic together and pour over the chicken, turning to coat. Season with black pepper and leave to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°/gas 6. Cut the bread into cubes, tip into a bowl and drizzle over the olive oil. Toss well to coat and spread the bread out in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes (turning halfway through the cooking time) until golden and crisp. Put the garlic into a small blender with the Dijon mustard, lemon juice and anchovies. Blend until smooth, then add the yoghurt, mayonnaise and three quarters of the parmesan. Blend again. If the dressing seems too thick add a splash of water - it should be the consistency of double cream. Season with black pepper (the anchovies will provide the saltiness). Place a griddle pan over a high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 7-8 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Leave to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Place the lettuce in a bowl, tearing the larger leaves into pieces. Pour over the dressing and mix gently. Add the chicken and croutons and toss together. Divide between two bowls and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top. Serve.