We probably won’t even recognize the typical grocery stores we shop in 5 years from now. Big food is suddenly looking like an underdog. Consumers want fresh and organic and there are signs that we collectively want to be on the road to healthier diets. Farmers Markets are booming because consumers consider local food healthier and tastier and that it is better for the environment.
The composed salad works beautifully when you come home from your local Farmers Market with an overflowing basket. You can create something of elegance, sophistication and opulence and it adapts itself to every season. It shows off the irresistible vegetables, herbs and fruits — but can also have rich components like cheese, eggs, toasted nuts, shellfish, poultry or meat.
Although the anything-goes factor is the defining beauty behind the composed salad, there is a guiding principle of restraint and balance as well as numerous unwritten rules: there are, naturally, right ways and wrong ways to compose your composed salad. Limiting what goes in to be able to taste each of the ingredients is key.
As a rule, I have found it helpful when preparing the dish to follow Coco Chanel’s lead for dressing yourself: when you’re finished, assess the whole in the mirror and remove one item before heading out for the day.
When properly executed, the result of the composed salad is your original masterpiece.
Something Leafy – makes a fluffy bed for the other ingredients. Choose among sweet and bitter greens or use a combination.
Bibb or Boston lettuce
Soft herbs: basil, cilantro, mint, shiso, celery leaves
Something Rich – makes the salad feel like a satisfying meal.
Hard-boiled eggs (not too hard, cut in wedges)
Cheese: burrata, feta, mozzarella, goat cheese
Fried green tomatoes
Raw Vegetables – focuses attention on the best of summer produce.
Snap peas or snow peas
Fresh corn kernels
Cooked Vegetables – can be grilled, blanched, or roasted
Zucchini or yellow squash
Cauliflower or broccoli florets
Green or yellow beans
Something Tangy – wakes up the other flavors
Preserved lemon rind
Anchovies, white or traditional
Pickled sliced red onions
Capers (plain or fried) and caperberries
Something Earthy – makes the salad substantial and satisfying.
Beans: white, cranberry, cannellini, chickpeas
Grains: quinoa, farro, bulgur wheat, barley
Something Sweet and Juicy – brings welcome little bursts of flavor and contrasts nicely with the savory elements.
Something Meaty – optional, but a great opportunity to explore the world of cured meats, smoked fish, and other luxuries.
Prosciutto, jamón serrano or country ham (very thinly sliced)
Tuna, salmon or other meaty fish (grilled or canned)
Smoked trout, salmon, mackerel or whitefish
Shrimp or squid (poached, roasted or grilled)
Chicken (poached, roasted or grilled)
Saucisson sec, aged chorizo or salami (very thinly sliced)
Bacon or pancetta nuggets
Fried shallots or onions
These are ideas for different combinations:
Serve with your favorite dressing on the table and let everyone drizzle their individual plates. My favorite dressing at the moment is:
1 T Dijon Mustard
1 T Rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Whisk in Olive oil to desired consistency
Buen Provecho, Akiba