It's harvest time for all the fabulous produce people have been growing the last few months.
Tomatoes are brimming with flavor, basil is lush and delightful and beans, cucumbers and other vegetables are ripe for the picking. In fact, many folks are wondering what exactly they can do to change up the usual salads, soups and casseroles that comprise this season.
I say the best idea is to keep things simple.
One of the most impressive but easy ways to show off all your fabulous vegetables is to make a composed salad. A composed salad is simply another way of presenting salad—one that draws the diner's eye to clusters of colors and flavors and encourages them to enjoy just what they like.
Take, for example, the classic Nicoise Salad. By laying out the key ingredients on a platter, the simple ingredients of cold potatoes, tuna, lettuce and green beans become a beautiful meal.
For our purposes, I suggest that a composed salad can use the same ingredients many of us just toss in a bowl.
By laying them out and treating each of those ingredients as something special, you can make your salad a centerpiece for a great meal. You can also use a composed salad to manage the dressing situation.
Too often, by tossing all your salad ingredients in a bowl and adding dressing to the mix, some ingredients drown in the dressing and lose the chance to have their unique flavors shine.
When you compose a salad, highlighting each ingredient is easier—and you can choose which get pre-dressed and which go on the platter “naked.”
Here is my recipe for a simple composed salad, which you can easily vary by what you have ready from the garden or in your chiller drawer in your refrigerator.
Simple Composed Supper Salad
(You can make this more of an entrée by adding grilled chicken or steak slices to the mix. Feel free to add cold blanched beans, peas or other veggies to personalize it!)
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh herbs
Pinch of salt, pinch of fresh ground pepper
10 large lettuce leaves, washed and dried
4 ripe tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced in half inch slices
2 miniature cucumbers, sliced and tossed in white wine vinegar
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced in large pieces
Chopped fresh herbs from the garden—basil, parsley, dill or marjoram
First, make the dressing by combining the balsamic vinegar, oil, garlic, minced herbs and salt and pepper in a jar and shaking them until combined. On a large platter, lay out the lettuce leaves overlapping each other to create a base for the other ingredients. Arrange a band of tomatoes, then a band of mozzarella. In the center, arrange the sliced cucumber. Scatter the avocado and herbs on top. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator while you assemble the rest of dinner.