Ashley’s Sun-Dried Tomato Caesar Salad

I have a sizable collection of cookbooks. My bookcases are full to the brim, and they’ve spilled over onto both sofa tables. They’re piled up on my desk, and occasionally I take them with me to bed. My mind races as I flip through the best cookbooks, and I feel sort of urgently, overwhelmingly inspired. It pains me that I don’t have enough time to make everything I want to.

When I was little, I saw my mother self-publish a few books, so I am aware of the time and effort that go into creating a book. I’m in awe of any authors who can develop an idea and see it through to completion. Truly, it’s a labor of love.

The author Ashley Rodriguez belongs to this group. Her lovely blog, Not Without Salt, may have introduced you to her talent. She is a mother and a wife who wrote a cookbook called Date Night In that is filled with complete dishes that are suitable for a date night.

I can tell Ashley gave her novel a lot of thought. She added notes on which ingredients of the dish can be prepared ahead of time while weaving stories throughout. Although a few of the dinners are a little on the decadent side and there aren’t many meatless options, the dishes are suitable for special occasions or even just a cozy date night in. They all use high-quality, fresh ingredients.

This single vegetarian woman discovered many recipes, including this lovely sun-dried tomato twist on a classic Caesar salad. It has me completely smitten. Although it doesn’t call for anchovies or Worcestershire sauce like most Caesar salads, the abundance of Parmesan gives it a fairly recognizable Caesar flavor. I used grated Parmesan from Whole Foods, which is genuinely vegetarian because it is prepared without the use of animal rennet. I prefer not to discuss animal rennet since I don’t want to complicate the straightforward idea of a vegetarian diet. However, the majority of Parmesans are not strictly vegetarians. (That’s just me; I don’t bother asking or checking cheese labels before ordering a pizza.)

Also read: Butternut Tabbouleh


Parmesan-crusted croutons

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of ¾-inch cubes of rustic bread (I used whole grain sourdough)

Sun-dried tomato dressing (yields about 1 cup dressing)

  • ¼ cup roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • Pinch sea salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Caesar salad

  • 2 or more small heads of romaine (you can eyeball it), halved or chopped
  • Sprinkle of additional Parmesan
  • Sprinkle of additional chopped sun-dried tomatoes


  1. First, a note on sun-dried tomatoes. I’m partial to Trader Joe’s sun-dried tomatoes that come in a bag because they aren’t oily but they’re soft enough to eat right out of the bag. You could also use oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and patted dry. If you’re using tough, dried tomatoes, you’ll need to soak them in boiling water until they’re pliable, then pat them dry and continue with the recipe.
  2. To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the top of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the olive oil, Parmesan and salt in a large mixing bowl until a paste is formed. Add the cubed bread and mix well with a spatula, until all the bread is coated. Turn the bread onto the prepared baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. I couldn’t quite mix in all of my Parmesan mixture, so I sort of lumped the excess on top of the bread pieces. Bake for 10 minutes, then stir and put the croutons back into the oven until they are golden brown and crisp, up to 5 more minutes.
  3. To make the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, lemon juice, water, garlic and a pinch of salt in a food processor or high-powered blender. Process for 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. While running the machine, drizzle in the olive oil and blend for 10 more seconds. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly smooth; it will still taste delicious! Taste and add more salt and some black pepper, if desired. Set aside.
  4. To assemble the salad, drizzle the dressing over your halved romaine or toss with your chopped romaine. Finish with croutons and a sprinkle of Parmesan and sun-dried tomatoes. Serve immediately.


Recipe minimally adapted from Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez.
STORAGE SUGGESTIONS: Dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If it separates, whisk vigorously before serving.