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How-To

Turn a Salad into a Satisfying Meal

Fine Cooking Issue 44
Photo: Scott Phillips
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To me, a simple composed salad is a quick but somehow elegant supper. I always start with a bed of greens. On top of that goes raw or cooked vegetables and hot, sautéed, crispy little pieces of fish or meat. (I’ll have tossed the greens with a slightly pungent vinaigrette to balance the richness of the meat or fish.) Finally, I pull the flavors together with a flourish or two: capers, anchovies, fresh herbs, a few sun-dried tomatoes, or olives. The whole thing usually comes together in under 15 minutes.

My recipe for Seared Scallop Salad calls for pan-seared sea scallops, but I use the same quick cooking technique for all kinds of ingredients: quickly searing the meat or fish on very high heat so the outside browns and the inside remains juicy. I then deglaze the pan with wine or Cognac so I can retrieve all the flavors left there. Any salad green can be a good base. I particularly like greens with a slightly bitter edge, such as arugula, radicchio, endive, watercress, frisée, escarole, dandelion, or a mix of several. These greens also don’t wilt as fast as more delicate lettuces when tossed with something hot.

Try not to add too many ingredients. The salad should be streamlined, including just a few complementary ingredients, not a catch-all to clean out your refrigerator.

Here are a few specific combinations I’ve found particularly delicious:

• Sautéed chicken livers (deglazed with Cognac) on escarole, with boiled new potatoes, blanched string beans, and walnuts, with a walnut oil and sherry vinegar dressing.
• Skirt steak, pan-seared and sliced, on chicory, with crumbled Gorgonzola, red onion, and beefsteak tomato wedges, dressed with olive oil, red-wine vinegar, and a touch of garlic.
• Sautéed chanterelles or morels on frisée, with string beans, julienned prosciutto, and croutons, tossed with a shallot vinaigrette.
• Pan-seared slices of garlic sausage on romaine lettuce, with roasted red pepper strips and bits of soft goat cheese,

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