Compose Yourself (with an Entree Salad)

One of Richard’s all-time favorite lunchtime treats is an old-school Cobb salad–a feast of salad greens, chopped chicken, hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes, avocado, bacon and whatever other fixings the chef decides to add. When it’s done carelessly, the Cobb salad is a sloppy tossed-together mess. When it’s done well, it’s served as a composed salad with each ingredient artfully arranged on a platter or in a large bowl. It’s as much a treat for the eye as for the palate. It’s also a classic entree salad.

7 Summertime Entree Salad Recipes

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The Cobb is an excellent example of the virtues of a composed salad, since it’s all about improvising with what you have on hand to create something greater than the sum of its parts. It was invented in the 1930s by Bob Cobb (awesome name!), owner of the long-gone landmark Hollywood restaurant The Brown Derby, when he raided the restaurant’s kitchen late one night in search of leftovers for a snack.

The elements of a composed salad can be as involved as Cobb’s concoction or as simple as a caprese salad. (With its tomatoes beautifully arrayed on a platter, topped with mozzarella and basil, and drizzled with olive oil, the caprese counts as a composed salad; a wintertime version of this might be thinly sliced orange topped with shaved fennel.) It’s only limited by your imagination–and what’s in the fridge. It’s the perfect opportunity to mix and match recipe elements to create something entirely different. Some building blocks to consider include:

Greens. Composed salads don’t have to include greens, but they often do, as a bed for the rest of the ingredients. Experiment with different types of greens, such as frisee, peppery arugula or mizuna, crunchy Napa cabbage, tender Bibb lettuce, or bitter, crunchy endive.

Dressing. Choose a dressing that underscores the overall flavor profile of your salad. Lia’s super-easy Go-To Vinaigrette can be pulled in any direction, depending on the type of oil or vinegar you use. For instance, give it an Asian flair with rice vinegar and ginger instead the white wine vinegar and shallots.

Other veggies. A composed salad is a great opportunity to raid the crisper. One of our favorites is roasted beets, which you can add warm or cold.

Protein. To make your salad entree-worthy, add a substantial protein, such as shrimp, smoked fish or shredded poultry. Hard-cooked eggs are another option.

Fruit. Embellish with seasonal fruit. For example, add shaved apple or sliced persimmon, or dress it up with sections of citrus. Sprinkle on some pomegranate seeds for color and tart flavor.

Grains and legumes. Lia’s Frisee Salad with Lentils and Duck Confit, below, is an ideal example of how legumes–lentils, in this case–fit into a composed salad. Grains like quinoa, bulgur and even rice would work, as well.

Other garnishes. Crown your creation with a sprinkling of crumbled bacon or cheese, toasted nuts or minced herbs.

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