… from the California Kitchen
How you doin’? This is one of my favorite composed salads. What’s a composed salad, you ask? A composed salad is simply a salad arranged on a plate rather than tossed in a bowl. The name is derived from the French “salade composée.” A composed salad can be a simple as a scoop of tuna salad on a bed of greens with a few olives arranged around it or can be more complex like my Barcelona Barbacoa Salad with lots of ingredients—both hot and cold.
When planning to make a composed salad you must pay attention to complementary flavors and colors. Mixed greens may be part of such a salad, but they can be made with most any ingredients if they are harmonious. The Salad Niçoise, made with potatoes, tuna, green beans, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs and Niçoise olives is an example of a composed salad. Cobb Salad, although sometimes tossed together, is often served as a composed salad like the original from the Brown Derby Cobb (see Recipe #16). These salads can be a meal in themselves, or served as a salad course, a lunch, etc. Although a composed salad might be comprised of many different ingredients this does not mean that your salad is elevated because you claim to have “composed” it, as many chefs seem to think. Flavor comes before presentation.
Many plate presentations—salads or not—are arranged or composed. There are a few types of compositions… bedded is the most common. A bedded salad starts with a “bed” of salad greens used in so many restaurants for so many things, including egg, chicken or tuna salad, or almost anything else, on a big lettuce leaf. Often the salad greens at the base of such a salad are a simple salad in themselves, with their own dressing, and the other ingredients arranged on top.
In restaurant kitchens is a lot easier to compose a salad because you have so many ingredients to choose from at hand. We try to make use of as many of them as possible. Our rule of thumb is, if a single ingredient does not account for at least 5% of sales or isn’t used in at least 5 menu items, there’s probably no good reason to have that ingredient in the inventory.
The Barcelona Barbacoa Salad has a lot of ingredients—both hot and cold. It is challenging, not because it is so difficult to make, but because of the number of separate ingredients. That is considered a lot of work by many, but that doesn’t detract from the absolute perfection in taste, texture and temperature that is experienced when you eat this salad. I have called out several store-bought ingredients to make it easier to “compose” without detracting from the overall eating experience.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1 serving
2 cups mixed lettuce blend (I use a bagged Mediterranean lettuce mix)
2 tablespoons 1/4-inch diced avocado
2 tablespoons 1/4-inch sliced cucumber rounds
2 tablespoons chopped jicama
1/2 cup warm beef chili (good quality store-bought canned chili)
3 quarter-cut tomato wedges
2 tablespoons grilled corn-off-the-cob niblets
1 tablespoon shredded cotija cheese
2 tablespoons pico de gallo (store-bought)
1/2 teaspoon green onion circles
1 sprig cilantro leaves
1/2 cup fried corn tortilla chips (store-bought)
2 quarters fresh lime wedges
1/4 cup south-of-the-border ranch dressing (3 tablespoons ranch dressing + 1 tablespoon pico de gallo mixed well)
ChefSecret: It’s not cheating to use store-bought ingredients—a can of chili, a pre-made pico de gallo and prewashed, cut and bagged lettuce blends make meal preparation so much easier.
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: “Chocolate is vital for our survival. Dinosaurs didn’t have any chocolate and look what happened to them.”
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