Gardens take their time producing a sufficiency of vegetables. Sometimes it comes in dribs and drabs. That’s the time for what the French and Italians call a composed salad, a fancy term meaning salad ingredients arranged separately in an innovative manner designed to seduce the eye.
That can mean a handful of grape tomatoes; a bit of cubed watermelon, cantaloupe or other fruit; half a fennel bulb; part of a package of spinach or arugula; a cup or so of cooked farro, rice, wild rice, barley, quinoa or other grain; and if desired, a bit of protein such as a torn-up chicken breast, some roughly chopped shrimp, slivered beef or pork, for instance. Have fun with this, cleaning out the fridge of tasty leftovers if need be.
There’s nothing wrong with tossing a composed salad, by the way. It just isn’t called composed but salad. — Nathalie Dupree
For the salad:
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered (optional)
1 cup fresh cut-up fruit (melon, oranges, peaches, mangos)
1 cup sliced fennel (optional)
1/2 to 1 (5-ounce) package of arugula or spinach (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup cooked green beans or peas (optional)
1 to 2 cups cooked grain (optional)
1 to 2 cups protein of choice (chicken, shrimp, hard boiled eggs, beef or pork) (optional)
1/4 cup dried fruit (optional)
For the viniagrette:
1/3 cup sherry or wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon or other mustard
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs to taste, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan, feta or mozzarella cheese
Prepare salad ingredients and arrange artfully on a plate, or toss together.
Whisk the mustard and sherry together. Whisk in the oil a little at a time to emulsify the vinaigrette.
Drizzle a bit of salad dressing all over, or toss each ingredient type separately before arranging.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle the salad with grated cheese of choice.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.