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Toss old salad ideas for one more composed

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch
  • Salade composée, or composed salad, is a salad arranged on a plate rather than tossed in a bowl.
  • Contrast textures: You’ll want something crunchy and something soft.
  • The blending of sweet, bitter and salty flavors also adds to the interest.

“Shaken, not stirred; composed, not tossed.” I can imagine James Bond adding the last part to his traditional catchphrase as he is seated in a restaurant.

Salade composée, or composed salad, is simply a salad arranged on a plate rather than tossed in a bowl. Because they have great visual appeal, they are a favorite subject for Instagram photos. Done right, they can be a meal unto themselves.

There are no rules for making a composed salad, but the idea is to have a contrast of flavors and textures. You’ll want something crunchy, and something soft. The blending of sweet, bitter and salty flavors also adds to the interest.

A composed salad is dressed, but the dressing is drizzled on the layers rather than being tossed together with all of the ingredients. With summer just beginning, now is the time to showcase the vegetables and fruits of the season.

One of my favorite composed salads is made with arugula or roquette, a pungent, dark leafy green. As a member of the same family as kale, it is nutrient-dense, being rich in vitamin C and folate.

Sliced pears and plumped raisins are added to offset its slightly bitter taste. A salty note is provided by the addition of thin slivers of Pecorino Romano, a sheep’s milk cheese.

The dressing for the salad is simple — olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The latter is the key ingredient. Although most supermarkets sell products labeled balsamic vinegar, they are a far cry from the real thing. Traditional balsamic is glossy, viscous and dark brown. The taste is a complex sweetness with notes of fig, molasses and cherry. There is only a hint of tartness.

Fortunately, there is no need to drive to Hunt Valley to find good balsamic vinegar. S. Clyde Weaver at New Eastern Market has an urn filled with aged premium balsamic that they will decant into a bottle they provide or a bottle that you bring. As it’s sold by weight, you can buy as much or as little as you want. Samples are given upon request.

To prepare the salad, assemble the following ingredients and get your camera ready. As an added note, wash all salad greens before using, no matter what the package says.

Arugula Salad

1 cup boiling water

3 tablespoons raisins

2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

5 ounces arugula

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese

3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted in a dry skillet

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

Combine water and raisins in a bowl; let sit 20 minutes and then drain.

Arrange the arugula on individual salad plates; season with salt and pepper. Top with pears and shave the cheese over the top; sprinkle with the raisins and almonds.

Whisk balsamic and oil in a bowl until emulsified. Drizzle dressing over salad.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.