I’ve always been a fan of composed salads: The kind where you display your ingredients separately and in a single-layer, rather than combined and tossed in a bowl. Certain classic salads lend themselves well to thisâlike a Cobb or chef’s saladâbecause it just looks prettier to display their many ingredients in a tableau rather than in a jumble (in my opinion). But I also think it’s a better way to serve salad to guests, say on a sultry summer day when you’re having a few friends over for lunch on the patio/deck/porch (aka, I-have-no-air conditioning-so-we-might-as-well-eat-outdoors). Sliced tomatoes with burrata and basil, cold poached shrimp with avocado and butter leaf lettuce, or a grilled tuna nicoise are some of my favorite composed summer salads.
For a luncheon salad, I always use a long rectangular platter; but lately, when I’m making a lunch salad for just myself, I like to serve it this way as well, using a smaller rectangular version of the platter. THIS plate from Heath Ceramics is my go-to piece for this kind of salad serving because it’s rather flat, with shallow edges, and its simple design shows of the ingredients beautifully.
Because the ingredients are so summer and so fresh, you want them to stand alone, rather than buried in the depths of a bowl. Also, when you have hefty or denser ingredientsâlike potatoes or eggsâyou don’t want them to bully and bruise the more delicate items like lettuce and herbs. Above is my regular warm weather lunch salad, which consists of romaine tossed with vinaigrette, sliced avocado, medium-boiled egg, grape tomatoes, steamed potatoes, feta, and leftover grilled asparagus. To assemble I do the following:
Summer Salad for Squares
- Toss 2 big handfuls of romaine lettuce (or whichever lettuce you prefer, I like romaine because it is sturdy enough to be a bed for the rest of the ingredients) and toss with your favorite vinaigrette (one of my favorites is to combine the following in a jar:Â l part lemon juice or white wine vinegar with 2 parts olive oil, a sprinkle of dried oregano, a spoonful of plain Dijon mustard, a little honey, salt and pepper) and then place the dressed lettuce in a single layer on the bottom of your rectangular plate, reserving some dressing for spooning on top of the finished salad.
- On top of the lettuce layer the following in rows: 1/2 sliced avocado; small handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half; 1 medium-boiled egg (cooked in simmering water for 8-9 minutes), cut in quarters; steamed Yukon or fingerling potatoes (you can also use leftover roasted potatoes), cut in halves; crumbled feta; grilled asparagus (if you have any other leftover greens this is a good place to use them up).
- Sprinkle the top of the salad with salt (flaky salt or fleur de sel would be perfect here if you have it) and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with some of the remaining salad dressing.