Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Salmon and Fennel Salade Composé

Only just March but a blog about salad? Seriously not madness.

I've been away for a few weeks, in part to celebrate my delightful nieces' 21st birthday in Australia, and have loved the sunshine and abundance of light in the other hemisphere. February days of 28 degrees and blue skies is the definition of bliss after a January of 10 degrees and drizzle. The man was busy busy at work and unable to join me, so I left the freezer full of lovely things in handy tubs and flew out late one Saturday night. I came back this week to a much depleted freezer and a man offering salad as the number one suggestion for what he'd most like to eat. So happy to oblige.

In every cafe and every brasserie in every village and every town in France the menu includes a  -usually a list of - salade composé. Best known is probably salade nicoise, the lovely laying out of crisp lettuce leaves to be topped with a spoonful of tuna in the centre surrounded by tomato slices, a tangle of limpid green beans, delicate slices of hard boiled egg and a scattering of salty black olives, all of it generously drizzled with vinaigrette. Add a chunk of crusty bread and you have a really fine meal, a fabulous array of colours, flavours and textures that are a thing of beauty. The sum greater than its individual parts - a really satisfying dinner any time of year, simple, healthy and filling (but not fattening). I am a fan.

There are many variations of this lovely dish, to some extent limited only by imagination and available ingredients. The defining characteristic is that the salad is composed - assembled from a variety of mini salads for the diners delectation rather than all tossed together making every bite uniform. With salade composé every bite is different as the various tasty elements come together in each mouthful making it a joy to eat. Try bitter chicory with sharp and creamy blue cheese and sweet slices of pear or oak leaf topped with beetroot and rare slices of pigeon breast and a scattering of toasted walnuts. One of my French café favourites is salade chèvre chaud - light greens topped with oozing warm goat's cheese, raisins and a light honey dressing. Add a hunk of crusty bread to achieve perfection.

My salad of choice this week was ready in ten minutes. After minimal peeling and chopping, no cooking at all and just the one tin to open, I presented a delightful assembly of baby gem topped with crisp fennel, cucumber and mixed sprouts, a burst of colour from crunchy slices of red pepper finished with a generous portion of tinned salmon and a drizzle of classic vinaigrette - seasoned olive oil and lemon juice mixed 3:1. Don't forget the bread!

No comments: