(Not) Recipes

Follow This Formula, Make Meal-Worthy Salads with Just This & That

June 19, 2017

It's France Week! We partnered with La Baleine to share a formula for three composed salads—ahem, salades composées—that take cues from the classics and gussies them up a bit!

Niçoise. Cobb. Those are the only composed salads I can think of, but take a look at the bones of these (very good) classics and you’ll see a structure that guides us to big, fun salads made of whatever our whim inspires. Certainly the word “composed” doesn’t illicit a rollicking good time. Or room for personal expression—much beyond crossed legs, really—but when it comes to “salade composée,” let’s get past the stuffy name for just a second.

Composed salad, all shook up (but not literally!) Photo by James Ransom

By definition, composed salads have lots of ingredients, in neat or meandering rows—the kind of rainbow of textures and flavors that’s timeless (ahem). They splay on platters (you don’t even have to toss!) to bring to your table of impressed guests, or for yourself so you can poke around with your fingers for your favorite bites.

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To make a composed salad a chorus instead of chaos, you’ll need to follow this (loose! imperfect!) formula. Nose-dive into your fridge to find an ingredient that fits each of these categories—there might an ingredient that fits two categories, and that's okay. Then, think about whether you’d like to eat the ingredients together. If the answer is yes—some people might be okay with cheese and bananas together?—line 'em up, add your favorite dressing, and go for it.

the golden formula

ideas to get you started

Photo by James Ransom


  • Leaves: Frisée
  • Fatty richness: Hard-boiled eggs
  • Vegetables: Salt-crusted purple potatoes (here's how to make those)
  • Protein: You already have eggs, but smoked salmon, too
  • Punch: Fried capers
  • Crunch: Blanched asparagus
Photo by James Ransom

Farmers Market Overflow

  • Leaves: Arugula seasoned with grey salt and pepper (you always season your greens, right? You wouldn't eat any other vegetable without doing so)
  • Fatty richness: Burrata
  • Vegetables: Shaved fennel
  • Protein: Prosciutto
  • Punch: Pickled raisins
  • Crunch: Peaches
Photo by James Ransom


  • Leaves: Mint, parsley, and cilantro leaves
  • Fatty richness: Yogurt-chive dressing
  • Vegetables: Cucumbers and radishes
  • Protein: Spiced-roasted chickpeas (you can use this as a guide, changing spices as you wish)
  • Punch: Castelvetrano olives
  • Crunch: Pita toasted with sea salt (here's a recipe)

La Baleine sea salt certainly has a history—it’s been around since 1856—and we’ve been stocking it in our own kitchens for years, too. It's a pure sea salt originating from the French Mediterranean and Brittany, and comes in several styles, from coarse to sel gris. See them all here.

For more on French food (sans white tablecloth), head here.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Avon Leekley
    Avon Leekley
  • Saffron3
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Avon L. July 1, 2017
Ali.. you are such a great, fun, writer and you know your food! My question is: When is your cookbook coming out?
Saffron3 June 19, 2017
Yes! Excellent way to eat in summer, for me indeed. I have a plate, small flattish oval old beauty, where upon I do these composed 'derangements' and often laugh at the combinations. A little cup with whatever dressings wanted, maybe a few crackers as well. So nice.
I most appreciate your additions of tiny ideas such as frying the capers, roasting the chickpeas, adding the fruits.
For me, I have a number of small storage boxes that I fill with salad potentials. Now, I'm going to label them with your list of 'composing components' and proceed. Thank you for this!