Seattle Kitchen: Why the Canlis salad is a cherished tradition

Apr 13, 2012, 8:48 PM | Updated: Apr 16, 2012, 11:59 am

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

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

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

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Seattle Kitchen: Why the Canlis salad is a cherished tradition