A composed salad, in French, is called a salade composée. It is a salad of many ingredients that are not tossed together but, instead, conscientiously arranged, whether in a pile or side by side, on a plate or in a bowl, with attention to complimentary flavors and colors. Mixed greens may be part of such a salad but they can be made with most any ingredients, as long as they are harmonious. The salad Niçoise, made with potatoes, tuna, green beans, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs and Nicoise olives 1 is an example of a composed salad. Cobb salad, although sometimes tossed together, if often also served as a composed salad. These salads can be a meal in themselves, or served as a salad course, a lunch, etc. Although a composed salad might be “composed” 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.
Although there are no rules as to how a composed salad must be arranged, there are several basic methods that can be described. Many plate presentations, even when the dish is not referred to as a salad, are arranged in one of these ways. One type is bedded, which is the most common. Bedded salads start with a “bed” of salad greens, which might be the origin of so many restaurants serving things like canned tuna fish salad, or almost anything else, on a big lettuce leaf. “Here, sir, is your composed salad of tuna fish, packed in spring water, and mixed with mayonnaise.” Often the salad greens at the based of such a salad are a simple salad in themselves, with their own dressing, the other ingredients arranged on top.
Another method is a mounded presentation, where each component is arranged in a separate mound on the plate. Often each mound is dressed separately and may be a salad in its own right, to be paired with several other salads on the plate. A flat presentation is when sliced components and other ingredients are arranged flat on a plate, often overlapped. If you’ve ever had an Insalata Caprese at an Italian restaurant, a salad of of sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and basil, the slices are often arranged in this manner, and could be considered an example. Perhaps overused is a molded presentation, where the components are compressed into different molded shapes, and held together by a dressing or sauce that is thick enough to hold them together after the mold is removed. Sometimes a molded base is used as a foundation for other ingredients, which are leaned against or stacked artfully on top of the base. Often molded components are layered with alternating non-molded components. This brings us to stacked, in which the components are stacked one atop the other in a “just-so” manner. 2 3
- Olives from Nice, from which the name of the salad is derived.
- Grausman, Richard. At Home with the French Classics. New York: Workman Pub., 1988.
- Sackett, Lou, Wayne Gisslen, and Jaclyn Pestka. Professional Garde Manger: A Comprehensive Guide to Cold Food Preparation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.