The Art of A Well Composed Salad

Salads as simple as they may seem can actually be difficult to master.  If you think about the last couple of salads you have eaten at a restaurant, there is probably two responses.  “It was OK…. or….That was a fantastic salad” The truth is, salads can be hit or miss, and the trick to a well composed salad is a bit complex.

If you are building a salad you have to think in terms of taste and texture.  Our tongue is divided into compartments with taste buds specifically targeted to salty, sour, sweet, and spicy.   When I build a salad I always keep these four flavor components in mind and try to have something that represents each.  For instance, in the salad recipe below, we have bacon wrapped scallops, with mango, avocado, candied pistachio, jalapeno, and a lime vinaigrette.  The bacon obviously is the salty, the mango provides the sweet, jalapeno adds some heat, and the lime dressing provides a nice tangy flavor to balance.

Texture is also extremely important.  Crunchy, creamy, crisp, smooth, etc.  all of these textures combined add to the enjoyment of a well composed salad. In the ingredients listed above, the bacon provides a crunch along with candied pistachios, the mango and avocado provide a creaminess, the scallop is a smooth texture and adds protein. The dressing is essential to complete the salad and provides a tangy coating on the greens.

As you can see, salads are not as simple as they might appear, there are an infinite number of combinations to creating a fantastic salad. So have fun!

Below is one of my personal favorites with a delightful tropical flavor combination.

Grilled Bacon Wrapped Scallop Salad with Mango,  Grilled Pineapple, Avocado, Candied Pistachio, with Lime Vinaigrette 

Ingredients

  • 12 large jumbo sea scallops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 6 strips of bacon (par cooked)
  • 2 teaspoons fish rub, divided (such as Whole Foods Chimichurri Spice Mix)
  • 5 (1/2-inch) slices fresh pineapple
  • 4 cups gourmet salad greens or mixed salad greens
  • 1 TBSP finely diced jalepeno, de-seeded
  • 1/3 cup diced peeled avocado
  • 2 tablespoons diced mango
  • 2 tablespoons diced pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • 1 tsp lemon grass paste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 3/4 cup white sugar

Preparation

Prepare grill to high heat.

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons fish rub evenly over scallops with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Coat scallops with cooking spray. Wrap scallops in par cooked bacon and skewer. Place scallops on grill rack; grill 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove scallops. Add pineapple to grill rack; grill 2 minutes on each side. Remove pineapple from grill; chop pineapple.

Combine salad greens, lettuce, pineapple, diced jala and avocado in a large bowl.

In a non stick saute pan add the pistachio and 3/4 cup of sugar.  Heat on high and continue stirring with high temp spatula until sugar has melted and caramelized to coat the pistachios.  Pour the nuts onto a baking sheet and let cool.  Once the nuts have cooled chopped and set aside.

Chop large pieces of chutney. Combine mangos, lime juice, olive oil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon fish rub in a small bowl with chopped cilantro. Add dressing to salad, and toss well.

Place 1 1/2 cups salad into each of 4 bowls. Arrange scallops over each salad. Sprinkle each salad with candied pistachios.

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