You can tell, just by making the restaurant rounds these days, that salads make up 80% of the lunch trade, if not more.
Why? Because salads are fast, health-conscious and light.
Because they can, if you are lucky, be beautiful to look at and a great taste experience too.
So we have selected the types of salads that qualify on all counts. Beautiful to look at, tasty, healthful and light.
The fruit salad pictured here came to us by way of chef Anton Mosimann of the Dorchester Hotel in London during our last visit in December.
At the time, Mosimann was introducing his new "Cuisine Naturelle," which had its grounding in nouvelle cuisine. Mosimann is a master chef trained in classical French cooking gone nouvelle. He is considered one of the leaders of the nouvelle movement outside of France and one of the great chefs of Britain.
The fruit terrine was served to a group of journalists who were invited to the unveiling of Mosimann's new cuisine. I happened to call Mosimann for an interview and was invited to join the group. The terrine was actually served as a dessert (yes, it can double as dessert whenever you wish), but is flexible enough to be transformed into a salad with a simple switch of accompaniments--using lettuce as a bed for the terrine instead of raspberry sauce, and serving a dressing with it.
The terrine, he said, was a modification of the new layered vegetable terrines associated with nouvelle cuisine , which are still going strong wherever nouvelle food is served. But instead of vegetables, he used seasonal fruit. And, instead of aspic as the gelling agent, he used fruit-flavored gelatin (white grape juice). His terrine was made with oranges and raspberries because it happened to be wintertime, but you can use any summery fruit you happen to have on hand.
The terrine is not only beautiful to look at and terrific to taste, but healthful, in a spare way. You can round out the menu if you use it as an accompaniment to some protein food, such as some excellent Brie, Camembert, goat cheese or whatever semisoft cheese you want, with a few crisp crackers or rolls.
The construction of the fruit terrine will take a bit of time because you will have to wait until the gelatin (added to each layer of fruit to seal it) firms up before adding other layers. But it's well worth the effort if you are entertaining or want to dazzle friends. "However did you do that?" they will ask. Actually, it's quite easy.
The other salads are a dramatic departure from Mosimann's airy fruit creation. The remaining recipes are main-dish salads using greens and some kind of protein food, such as pork, tuna or cheese. All you need to do to round out the menu is to add some bread and fruit, if not already in the dish.
The idea of using grilled meats on salads is not new, but it is a relatively new practice among young chefs who have been taken by things Californian--by way of the South of France. California weather, so conducive to barbecue cookery year-round, makes these types of salads ideal for summery outdoor-indoor entertaining or family meals.
For one salad, we used pork tenderloin, which is often sold vacuum-packed in many supermarkets and has absolutely no waste at all. Pork tenderloin is easy to grill, and the meat is exceptionally tender, so it requires a cooking time almost equivalent to that of a fillet of beef. Once cool, the roast slices easily and in uniform medallions.
Another idea stolen from chefs around town is use of fresh tuna as carpaccio (raw, seasoned meat) , which, in Italy, is generally made with paper-thin slices of beef or veal. The tuna is marinated in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar with garlic and seasoning. This treatment of fresh fish is similar to that of ceviche, which, in effect, both seasons and tenderizes the raw fish to make it palatable without cooking. You can use veal or beef as an alternative to tuna, as well.
Sitting at the counter at La Cucina on Melrose Avenue one day when Claudio Marchesan of Prego was filling in for the vacationing executive chef Celestino Drago, Marchesan mentioned a first-course salad that he had heard was being served among the elite in Rome. It was a julienne vegetable salad using the three colors of Italy--red, white and green: zucchini, celery and beets.
The paper-thin shaving of vegetables are heaped in three airy mounds and topped with complementary ingredients such as Parmesan cheese, prosciutto and feta cheese.
If you have a vegetable slicer to cut the vegetables paper-thin, all the better. Otherwise, use a sharp knife to slice the vegetables as thinly as possible. They should look like fluffy clouds on the plate.
The last recipe was inspired by a dish we had at Jeremiah Tower's restaurant in San Francisco, called Stars.
He served lamb shanks over a bed of hominy, corn and green, yellow and red peppers. Taking the hominy mixture idea, we turned it into a salad, which is not only colorful, but nutritious and light. By adding goat cheese to the dish, we have turned it into a well-balanced meal-in-a-dish salad.
Here are the salads for your summery menus when you want something light, health-conscious and beautiful to look at. FRUIT TERRINE
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
4 cups white grape juice
3 cups (about) strawberries, sliced
1 to 2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 mango, peeled and sliced in thin wedges
1 papaya, peeled and sliced in thin wedges
Fruit Salad Dressing
Soften gelatin in 2 cups grape juice. Heat over low heat until dissolved. Stir in remaining grape juice. Cool until slightly thickened.
Place 1 (9-inch) loaf pan in larger pan filled with ice cubes. Pour small amount of gelatin mixture in bottom of pan to form thin layer. Arrange 1/3 of strawberry slices and kiwi slices in decorative pattern. Allow to set. Arrange mango slices over surface to form another layer. Spoon over more gelatin mixture to cover fruit. Let set.
Top with layer of remaining sliced strawberries. Spoon over more gelatin mixture to cover berries. Allow to set. Top with papaya slices. Pour over remaining gelatin mixture. Chill until completely set. Unmold onto serving platter and cut into slices about 3/4-inch thick. Serve each slice with dollop of Fruit Salad Dressing. Garnish with mint sprigs and more fresh fruit, if desired. Makes about 8 servings.
Note: Any freshly cut and sliced summery fruit may be used. Fruit Salad Dressing
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
1 to 2 tablespoons raspberry or other fruit puree
Blend honey, mayonnaise and whipped cream. Add fruit puree. Makes 1 1/2 cups. CLAUDIO'S ITALIAN SALAD
2 medium zucchini, cut into finely shaved or julienne pieces
Hearts of 1 bunch celery, cut into finely shaved or julienne pieces
1/2 pound small beets, peeled and finely shaved or cut into julienne pieces
4 paper-thin slices Parmesan cheese, cut into fine julienne pieces
4 extra-thin slices proscuitto, cut into fine julienne pieces
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Balsamic Vinegar Sauce
Mound 1/4 of zucchini on 1 side of each plate. Mound 1/4 of celery on other side of each plate. Mound 1/4 of beets on each plate. Mound 1/4 of Parmesan cheese over zucchini on each plate, 1/4 of prosciutto over celery and 1/4 of crumbled feta cheese over beets. Drizzle each plate with with Balsamic Vinegar Sauce. Makes 4 servings.
Balsamic Vinegar Sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine vinegar, oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Shake or stir vigorously. CORN-HOMINY-PEPPER SALAD
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow or green pepper
2 ears corn
1 (1-pound) can hominy, drained
1/3 cup walnut oil or vegetable oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 bunch spinach, cleaned and stems removed
4 slices goat cheese
1/4 cup walnut halves
Roast peppers under broiler until charred on all sides. When cool enough to handle, remove papery skins under running cold water. Dice peppers or cut into thin strips, discarding seeds and membranes. Set aside.
Cut corn kernels from cob. Place in bowl with hominy and diced peppers. Add oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Marinate 20 minutes.
When ready to serve, arrange spinach leaves on large platter or individual plates. Top with corn-hominy-pepper mixture. Place goat cheese over corn mixture. Sprinkle with walnut halves and any remaining marinade. Makes 4 to 6 servings. PORK TENDERLOIN SALAD WITH BABY LETTUCES
1 (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pound) pork tenderloin
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 head small red-leaf lettuce leaves
1 head small limestone or curly lettuce leaves
2 oranges, peeled and separated into segments
12 to 16 chives
16 to 20 Nicoise olives
Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette
Rub pork tenderloin with garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle surface of pork tenderloin lightly with oil.
Grill tenderloin over medium coals until meat is done, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into thin slices. Arrange red-leaf lettuce on outer rim of plate. Layer center of plate with limestone lettuces. Overlap 4 or 5 slices of pork in center of each plate. Garnish each plate with orange segments, 3 or 4 chives and 4 to 5 olives. Drizzle with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Roast leg of lamb slices may be substituted for pork. Nicoise olives are very small black olives. They may be found in jars at gourmet sections in supermarkets. If not available, use any small ripe olives. Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Milk or buttermilk, optional
Blend together yogurt, mayonnaise, Dijon, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. If too thick, add milk or buttermilk to reach desired consistency. Makes about 1/2 cup. TUNA CARPACCIO SALAD
1 pound fresh yellowtail or other tuna, sliced paper-thin
1/4 cup extra-virgin or regular olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, mashed
Finely shredded daikon
8 red-leaf lettuce leaves
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons capers
Place slices of tuna in layer in shallow pan. Combine oil, vinegar, garlic and salt and pepper to taste in small bowl and drizzle over tuna slices. Turn tuna to coat well with dressing. When ready to serve, place clump of daikon on each plate. Arrange overlapping tuna slices over daikon. Place 2 lettuce leaves on side of tuna. Place tomato slices over lettuce. Top with onion. Sprinkle salad with capers and drizzle any remaining dressing over. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Tenderloin beef may be used in place of tuna. To cut paper-thin, freeze just enough to make slicing easy, then slice paper-thin. Daikon (long Japanese horseradish) is available at supermarkets.