A composed salad, or salade composée, is one of my favorite ways to feed friends and family come the summer months. This edible art form is arranged on a large platter rather than tossed in a bowl, creating a stunning centerpiece for your table and allowing guests an interactive dining experience as they serve themselves from the beautiful bounty. You can make a composed salad out of just about anything- I've made composed cobbs, composed fajita salads, Greek salad inspired arrangements, Asian style lettuce wrap platters, etc- but the most classic example (and my personal favorite) is the Salade Niçoise. Traditionally made with tuna and potatoes, I have spun this Niçoise to feature roasted chicken (rotisserie works great!) and French green lentils instead, keeping the remaining ingredients tres classique.
It all starts with a really great vinaigrette- this one has loads of flavor thanks to dijon, anchovy and fresh dill. Double the recipe if you like, because it's great on other salads, grilled proteins and veggies as well! The next steps involve a couple pots and pans, but the good news is that most of these can be knocked out well in advance so that come mealtime, all you have to do is arrange your platter. Tender French green lentils, "lentilles du puy", stand in for potatoes as an unexpected but welcome starch substitute. I like using this variety of lentil because of their beautiful color and also the fact that they don't get mushy like other lentils- you want them to hold their shape. While you make the lentils, blanche the green beans and soft boil the eggs right after in another pot. Remember to have your ice bath ready for shocking the beans and cooling the eggs! Cryotherapy for food!
Once you've prepped the ingredients, all that's left to do is grab a big platter and start to arrange! I add the greens first as the base, then begin by clustering the remaining ingredients on top, keeping them in tight groups. Then I spoon the vinaigrette evenly over each ingredient cluster and finish with flaky salt and some more dill. If you want to, you could lightly toss the ingredients in a bit of the vinaigrette before adding them to the platter, but I like to just serve extra vinaigrette on the table for people to help themselves. Bon appetit!
Prep time: 30 min. Cook time: 15 min. Serves: 4
2 large roasted chicken breasts, homemade or from a rotisserie chicken, meat coarsely shredded
8 oz trimmed green beans
4 large eggs
3/4 cup French green lentils
1 small bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, lightly crushed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, or a mix of kalamata and green olives
1 tbsp drained capers
3 large radishes, very thinly sliced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
5 oz mixed salad greens
Fresh dill and flaky salt for garnish
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 tbsp chopped drained capers
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp kosher salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Make the vinaigrette by adding all the ingredients besides the olive oil to a jar. Whisk to combine, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Check for seasoning. Set aside.
Place the lentils in a medium pot with the bay leaf, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 crushed clove garlic. Cover with water by several inches and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer ~20 min, or until the lentils are al dente. Add more water as needed if they’re drying out. Drain the lentils in a colander and discard the aromatics. Set them aside to cool slightly.
Bring another medium pot of water to a rapid boil. Season with 2 tsp kosher salt. Add the green beans to cook for 3-5 minutes, or until they are crisp tender. Remove them with tongs to an ice bath. When cool, strain them and pat dry. Keep the water boiling in the pot.
Add the eggs to the same boiling water. Boil for 8-9 minutes for soft jammy yolks. Remove them with a slotted spoon to the ice bath to cool, then peel and cut them in half.
Grab a large platter and arrange the mixed greens on the bottom. On top add clustered groupings of the chicken, eggs, lentils, radishes, olives, capers, tomatoes and green beans. Dress the ingredients generously with the vinaigrette, reserving a little for individual portions. Garnish with a bit of flaky salt and some fresh dill fronds. Serve in the center of the table with extra vinaigrette on the side!