Seattle Kitchen: Why the Canlis salad is a cherished tradition

The salad at Canlis restaurant has been a local tradition for about 60 years. So who better to talk about the recipe than Mark Canlis, the founder's grandson.

"It probably originates from my great grandmother, whose husband cooked for Teddy Roosevelt in Africa, of all places... It's an old recipe. We eat it at home, we eat it at the restaurant. We toss it tableside sometimes. It's just fun," Canlis tells Katie O with Seattle Kitchen on 97.3 KIRO FM Weekends.

While the foundation of the salad is Romaine, Canlis is adamant about not calling it a Cesar salad.

The reason for Romaine is "it is the right shape for the salad, it's full of flavor, it's a rich lettuce, it has the right texture, it has a lot of moisture in it," explains Canlis.

And he would know. He tells Katie he's been cutting up lettuce since he was a kid growing up in the restaurant. In fact, he has a trick to keep it tasting sweet. Cut off the end and let it sit for 24 hours, bleeding the bitter milky substance from the leaves.

Canlis is particular about slicing up the Romaine because "when you're eating a salad, it's no fun to have big chunks of lettuce hanging out of your mouth."

A good rule of thumb is one inch chunks, pretty much for all the ingredients in the famous salad. Also, cut out the stem and the leathery ends that often dry out.

As for the bacon, Canlis suggests any thick cut Applewood bacon you'd normally use to cook with. He prefers bacon from A&J Meats & Seafoods on Queen Anne.

Keep a close eye on your bacon. You don't want it floppy and you don't want it burnt to a crisp. Perfectly cooked bacon isn't a bad personal goal.

While Parmesan may be your "go to" cheese for a salad, Canlis says his family's tradition just doesn't taste right unless it's Romano. And to do it right, get a whole chunk and grate it over the salad.

"Crumbled does not work, it's gotta be grated."

Either crack open a sack of store-bought crutons or make your own. Canlis, of course, prefers the homemade variety with butter, not olive oil. Plus, he says it's such an easy task to grab an old loaf of bread and make a big supply.

The salad's herbs are important for Canlis and his family.

"My grandparents came from Greece and everything had mint and Oregano in it, and so does the salad," Canlis says.

Use way more than you'd think because you can't "over- mint" this salad. Cut up, into one inch squares, three to five tomatoes and chop up some green onion.

Canlis wants you to season a Koa wood serving bowl before throwing everything inside.

"You just want to take olive oil and a clove of garlic and just pour the olive oil in the bowl and with your fingers, just sort of mash the garlic in the wood of the bowl."

You can find the full recipe and dressing at Canlis.com

Seattle Kitchen can be heard on 97.3 KIRO FM Saturdays at 8am and Sundays at 10am or anytime at MyNorthwest.com On Demand.


Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Stephanie joined the MyNorthwest.com team in February 2008. She has built the site into a two-time National Edward R. Murrow Award winner (Best Radio Website 2010, 2012).
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