Under the influence of both Southeast Asian cookery and Nouvelle Cuisine, a lot of restaurant chefs have been combining meat with salad into a beautiful entree. One dinner might feature a mound of greens with grilled chicken; another might start with a base of sauteed red and green peppers in a vinaigrette dressing with a side of grilled sausage.
It's refreshing and easy. Rather than deciding that an elegant lunch have a main dish and separate salad, the two are served together.
Charles Weber, a very talented Chicago chef, gave me a recipe for what I consider the most delicious example of the salad meal. It's my summer ritual to celebrate my flourishing basil patch.
Weber's directions, which I have simplified, call for covering a salmon fillet with basil leaves, then sauteing the fish. It becomes permeated with a delicate anise flavor. The base of baby greens, generously mixed with more basil and dressed with a simple oil, Sherry vinegar and shallot combination is a great match for the salmon.
Now that salad days are here, I recommend the following basil salad with baby greens.
BASIL SALMON WITH BABY GREENS
1 (10-ounce) salmon fillet
8 to 10 basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper
3 cups baby field greens
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Remove all bones from salmon. Arrange basil leaves on flesh side of fish.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until very hot in medium skillet. Add salmon, basil-side down, and cook over medium-high heat 6 minutes. Gently turn fish over and cook second side until cooked through, 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
On serving plate, combine field greens, basil and shallots. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar in cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over greens. Cut salmon into 2 serving portions. Arrange over greens.
Makes 2 servings.