The composition salad – A medley of tastes and flavors that come together at the whim of the chef, and then the diner, complimenting each other with every bite, making the entire composition better as a whole. Usually served chilled.
The first time the compostion salad was brought to my restaurant owner’s attention Chef David Wetzel had prepared five different selections to present for menu choices at Chez Foley in Minnesota. Thrilled that each work of plate art took on a different mood, I opted for more salads of composition style rather than its cousin, the mixed salad, for most of my restaurant career.
The most popular of all composition salads is the Salad Nicoise. Seared Ahi Tuna has nudged out the canned variety in many restaurants, but a good Italian tuna packed in olive oil still works wonders. It is surrounded by a medley of olives, small New Potatoes, a variety of green beans, a sliced egg, tomato wedges and possibly an artichoke heart. And, with the creative touches of most chefs, the salad becomes a work of art on the plate.
Recently, I have been enjoying the Salmon Nicoise at The Girl and the Fig, one night each week. A six ounce portion of Salmon, topped with a smooth caper sauce, is lovingly angled on a bed of greens. It´s then surrounded by a varied selection of olives, a sliced beet, a few egg wedges, sliced cherry and miniature plum tomatoes. Along with sliced radishes these are individually arranged in a style that would make the white anchovy filets that accompany the medley, smile.
Don´t think you need to stay with fish for your salads. Stray a bit. Experiment. Steak, chicken, Game Hen, duck, and even pork or turkey tenderloin would work perfectly in the salad. And, the surrounding accompaniments can also be varied to the whim of the artist in the kitchen.
The other benefit of a composition salad, aside from customer appeal and the fact that this is one dish where you can play with your food, move it around, use the flat edge of the radish to clean the plate of every drop of caper sauce is the cost factor. Cost out the plate and you will find that it is a money maker that customers will relish on hot summer nights.
While on the subject of composition salads, I received another tremendous newsletter from Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page yesterday. For those who do not subscribe to Dornenburg and Page, you have to do so as soon as you are done on this site. Their site, Becoming a Chef, gives great insight and examples of what other restaurateurs are accomplishing.
They publish one of the most enjoyable food blogs on the Internet. Loaded with pics, they invite the reader to their table as they highlight restaurants and chefs in the food capital of the world.
“WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT
And, their latest book, "What to Drink with What You Eat” is receiving accolades from the culinary community across the dining tables of America. Last week Publisher´s Weekly published this notice:
” Dornenburg and Page demystify the challenge of food and beverage pairing in this exhaustive, accessible resource….This comprehensive collection provides a wealth of guidelines for pairings, not only by specific food, but by food type, time of day, characteristics, season, and personal mood….This encyclopedic collection is highly recommended for those who give serious thought to the flavor of each dish.”
Pick it up. Use it in your menu pairings. One of the hottest trends in the industry is to pair food and beverage.
Suggest the hottest new beverage with that cool composition salad and your customers will not only love your food, but respect your knowledge of the industry.