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What is a Composed Salad?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A composed salad is a salad which is arranged, rather than tossed together. This salad can take a number of forms, from a tower of fresh greens to an artfully arranged sunburst of color on a plate. The end goal is to plate a more formal, elegant looking salad. Many restaurants compose their salads, and home cooks may choose to do so at dinner parties. For an added pretentious twist, call it a salade composee.

When creating a composed salad, only the freshest, highest quality ingredients should be used. All of the individual components of the salad are very much on display, so it is important to use strong salad ingredients to carry the dish. As is the case with any salad, the ingredients should be washed, and cooks usually pick through them to find the most shapely and attractive ingredients as well. When foods are chopped for a composed salad, they may be prepared on a mandoline so that they are evenly sliced.

In addition to general appearance and taste, color is an important aspect of a composed salad. The colors generally complement each other, and they may be arranged in layers or concentric rings in some salads. Others use ingredients with similar colors so that the overall salad has a theme of a single color, with perhaps a splash of golden beets or tomatoes for variation. It is important to be aware of the role of color in a composed salad when putting it together, and cooks should not forget the impact of the dressing on the color.

The dressing on a composed salad may be drizzled on top or served on the side. In the case of drizzled dressings, some chefs create visual variations with cross hatching patterns of different colored dressings, or they make shapes such as hearts, waves, circles, or rings on the edge of the plate with dressing. A squeeze bottle is a very useful tool for this, and it is a good thing to have in a well stocked kitchen anyway. A toothpick will also assist in sculpting the salad and artfully distributing the dressing.

Some home cooks wonder how professional chefs make composed salads with artful towers of ingredients. The answer is a springform ring, which is closed while the salad is assembled and then gently opened and removed, leaving a pillar of salad behind. These rings can also be used to create other architectural dishes, such as layered mashed potatoes, meats, and vegetables.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By pastanaga — On May 05, 2011

I love watching them make these salads on cooking shows and on Youtube.

You can pick up some really good composed salad recipes that way too.

Even if it's just a small trick, like how to make roses out of carrots. You have to parboil the carrot slices to make them soft enough to bend, which is something that would never have occurred to me.

And it's fun and it encourages you to use ingredients you might not use otherwise.

My friends are always impressed. Well, they are at least amused.

By browncoat — On May 03, 2011

The most I've ever done is make little smiley faces for my mother with cherry tomatoes. It's cool to think of people putting this much effort into salad. Think of how much effort they put into making desserts look nice.

I might be afraid to eat a salad sculpture though. It's a nice thought, but I think I would prefer just a plain old summer salad.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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