Composed salads just as delicious as tossed

Associated Press

The end of summer can be a hectic time. Days are packed, with school preparation and busy schedules.

Fortunately, the end of summer also brings an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits that can help reduce time spent in the kitchen.

Take advantage of the late summer harvest by making composed salads. These quick, kid-friendly meal options will keep the whole family happy.

Composed salads differ from tossed salads in that the component parts of a composed salad are arranged on the plate, rather than tossed together.


Chef Joe Mure, assistant professor in culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, explains that typically in a composed salad the main item, such as seasoned meat, grilled chicken or shrimp, as well as a portion of cheese or grilled vegetables, is set on a bed of greens, which has been garnished and dressed.

"Some composed salads feature ingredients that have contrasting colors, flavors, texture, heights and temperatures," he says. "Others are based on a single motif or flavor pattern that links the salad's elements."

Although there are no specific requirements for a composed salad, follow these principles to create delicious combinations:

Consider how well each of the elements combine. Contrast flavors that are intriguing.

Repetition of a color or a flavor can be successful if it contributes to the overall dish. However, too much of a good thing is simply too much.

All the components should be capable of standing alone, but the composition of the total combination should enhance each part.

Components should be arranged so that the textures and colors of the foods are attractive to the eye. Give the appearance of the plate careful thought.

The following recipes for Taco Salad and Chef Salad have been adapted from the Culinary Institute of America's "The Professional Chef."


Note: To reduce calories and fat, substitute low-fat dairy products.

Taco salad

1 pound lean ground beef

1 cup prepared taco sauce

1 medium head iceberg lettuce, trimmed, cored and shredded

4 ounces of tortilla chips, or 4 large corn or flour tortilla bowls (see note)

1 cup cooked pinto beans

1 cup cooked black beans


1 cup diced tomatoes

1/4 cup red onion, diced (optional)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

8 pitted black olives

1 cup Salsa Fresca (recipe follows) or prepared salsa

Brown ground beef over medium heat, stirring and breaking up meat until it is fully cooked and no longer red or pink. Drain away the fat and combine with the taco sauce over low heat, about 3 to 5 minutes just until the sauce thickens. The mixture should hold together and be moist. Remove from heat and cool.

Lay a bed of lettuce on a plate or in the bottom of each tortilla bowl. Layer with beans, taco-meat mixture, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, cheese, olives and salsa. If composing the salad on a plate, garnish with tortilla chips. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.


Note: Prepared tortilla bowls can be found in the ethnic food section of most supermarkets or in Mexican specialty foods stores.

Salsa fresca

1/4 of a small onion

1/2 of a small green pepper, seeded

1 clove of garlic

1 teaspoon minced, seeded jalapeno

1 small tomato, cored and chopped

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


2 teaspoons lime juice

Salt to taste

Place onion, green pepper, garlic and jalapeno into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse 5 or 6 times until mixture is chopped to a desirable texture. Remove mixture and place in a small bowl. Add tomatoes, cilantro, lime and juice. Combine well. Season with salt to taste. Use immediately or hold under refrigeration. Makes 1 cup.

Nutrition information per serving salad: 700 cal., 44 g pro., 55 g carbo., 35 g fat, 90 mg chol., 950 mg sodium.

Chef salad

13 ounces (about 7 cups) cleaned and trimmed mixed salad greens

8 slices roast turkey, rolled tightly

8 slices salami, rolled tightly


8 slices ham, rolled tightly

2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into 4 wedges each

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

8 tomato wedges (1 large tomato)

1/3 cup thin-sliced cucumber

1/3 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup (4 ounces) Red Wine Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Place the greens in a bowl or arrange them on a plate. Arrange the meat, eggs, cheese, and vegetables on the lettuce. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Red wine vinaigrette

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or chives (optional)

Place the vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add herbs if desired. Hold under refrigeration until ready to use. Makes 1/2 cup (4 ounces).

Nutrition information per serving of salad: 440 cal., 33 g pro., 15 g carbo., 29 g fat, 205 mg chol., 1,540 mg sodium.

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