For all the grief the Caesar salad gets in the culinary world, I proudly admit to adoring the classic flavor combination. If I could eat only one salad for the rest of my life, it would be some form of Caesar.

This recipe for Brussels Sprouts Caesar with Sardine Croutons is a pivot on the standard version. The dressing is my quick weeknight version. Instead of romaine, I use shaved raw Brussels sprouts. I leave off the bread croutons, a move originated in honor of my daughter’s intolerance of gluten, but one that works out well for those watching carbs. Instead, I lightly saute up sardines and cut them into cubes to stand-in as croutons. I skip the anchovy paste, no longer necessary, in the dressing.

If the sardines scare you, I’d like to encourage you to give them a try. A can of sardines will only set you back a buck or two, and are handy to have in the pantry. If you are a canned sardine newbie, I’d suggest looking for the words “boneless and skinless” on the label. The bones are actually barely detectable, and the skin is tasteless, but its silvery color is a bit of a turn-off for my kiddos. So maybe start slow.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS CAESAR WITH SARDINE CROUTONS

Servings: 6

1 pound Brussels sprouts, sliced or shredded (about 4 cups total)

1 small can (3.75 ounces) skinless, boneless sardines, drained and blotted dry with a paper towel

1 tablespoon flour

Olive oil in a mister

DRESSING:

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ounce of Parmesan cheese (for shards)

Extra lemon and black pepper for serving, optional

Place shredded Brussels sprouts in a large salad bowl and set aside. Heat a small nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Gently dredge the sardines in the flour, lightly coating the sardines with the flour on both sides. Spray the pan with a light coating of olive oil and cook the sardines until lightly crusty and golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Spoon the dressing onto the shredded sprouts and toss to coat well. Top with sardines (serve whole or cut into cubes), a few shards of Parmesan cheese and additional black pepper and serve with extra lemon wedges, if desired.

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