A person who is “composed” keeps his or her feelings and expressions under control. A salad that is composed bears essentially the same definition — said salad ingredients are kept “under control,” neatly arranged into attractive, dare I say sexy, little piles or stripes of colorful goodness. From the French “salade composée,” a composed salad is quite simply a salad with ingredients which are neatly arranged on a plate rather than tossed in a bowl. Who knew one could be so esoteric about salads?
I recently came across a New York Times article titled A Composed Salad is a Meal Unto Itself which was both informative and witty. A beautifully arranged composed salad just seems to present itself a little nicer as a dinner option as opposed to a large tossed salad. Julia Moskin explains why the composed salad is just such a special dish.
[F]or the American cook in summer, it [the composed salad] is….a back-pocket lunch or dinner that can be endlessly reinvented and served to many people at any time. It shows off the intense, irresistible vegetables, herbs and fruits of the season — but can also have rich components like cheese, eggs, toasted nuts and smoked fish or meat. With a loaf of (preferably grilled) bread, it is a meal in itself. Like the V.I.P. pass at a music festival that gets you a folding chair and access to a charging station, a composed salad provides a little extra organization and luxury, but still holds the wild spirit of summer.
During one of my french cooking classes at The Seasoned Farmhouse, Chef Sarah Lagrotteria introduced this beautiful La Scala Chopped Salad as a classically composed salad. The salad is inspired by one which is a signature item at the famous Beverly Hills Italian restaurant, La Scala, and can be found on Sarah’s blog, Apples and Onions. We made this salad during one of our dessert focused classes this past spring. We were dusted in flour and sugar, splattered with buttermilk and chocolate. So when it came time for lunch, we whipped up this easy, delicious salad. The savory salami mixed with the fresh basil, tomatoes, wholesome chickpeas and tangy mustardy dressing was a welcome diversion from our sweet treats.
My family had a particularly indulgent few days of eating last weekend. On Monday it was time to reel it in and pump out some healthy weeknight dinners. A big healthy salad was what I wanted for dinner. And typically what the cook wants, the cook gets. But I had to figure how to sell it to my family (I could just hear the complaints from the kids, “salad for dinner?”). My kids are suckers for garbonzo beans, salami, and a tangy italian dressing — so needless to say when I recalled this salad recipe from Sarah, I was set on making it. It completely hit the spot. I served it with some crusty whole grain bread and all customers were satisfied. My husband finished every last piece of lettuce and sopped up every bit of dressing with that grainy bread — always a sure sign of success.
La Scala Chopped Salad (Serves 4-6)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
About 8 cups of lettuce — 2 heads of romaine or 1 head of romaine and 1 heard of iceberg, chopped
1 container grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
4 oz good quality salami or pepperoni, diced
4 oz grilled chicken or deli turkey, diced
4 oz italian cheese like parmesan, mozzarella, asiago, shredded
1 generous handful of fresh basil, chopped
In a jar, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, dry mustard, thyme, oregano and salt and pepper. Shake the dressing well.
Place chickpeas in a small bowl with 2-3 Tbsp of the dressing on the chickpeas to marinate for 30 minutes.
Add the chopped lettuce to a large bowl. Pour about half of the dressing over the lettuce and toss to coat. Place dressed lettuce on large serving platter. Compose chickpeas, tomatoes, salami, deli meat or chicken, cheese and basil into stripes across the top of the lettuce. Add more dressing if needed.
Recipe adapted slightly from Sarah Lagroterria’s La Scala Chopped Salad