Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Southwestern Composed Salad

Last night, I served this "composed" main course salad to our writers' group in a glass bowl to highlight the colorful layers. Once we dug in, the composed effect vanished, but the salad created gorgeous scoops of rainbows over the baby greens on our plates (see below). Delicious, lo-cal, and summery, casual enough for a barbecue but fancy enough for your mother-in-law, what more could you want? And leftovers are great. Tonight my husband and I enjoyed them with Chicken with Honey and Cumin Marinade.

The first photo I posted on Kitchen Excursions, the gorgeous Antipasto to the right, is a lovely example of a composed salad. No, it doesn't mean the salad is calm and collected. A composed salad is simply the opposite of a tossed salad, arranged just so, a more elegant presentation. Despite the prep work, composed salads are fun to make, and ingredient amounts aren't critical. All you really need to do the job is your imagination and a pretty platter or a glass salad bowl. Experiment, and enjoy!

For the salad:
¾ cup pearl barley
2¼ cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water or broth
1-2 cups black-eyed peas, fresh, frozen, or dried
10 oz. frozen corn, thawed, or fresh corn from 2-3 ears, cooked al dente
2 cups broccoli florets
1 15-oz. can pink beans, rinsed and drained well
Baby spinach and/or salad green of choice

For the Dressing:
6 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. dry white wine
½ cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. honey
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsps. ground cumin
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
½ tsp. Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Stir barley in a small saucepan over moderate heat until it starts to color, about 5 minutes. Add hot broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 40 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and barley is tender. Leave partially covered until cool.

2. Bring the quinoa and broth to a boil. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and germ of the grain is visible. Leave partially covered until cool.

3. Cook black-eyed peas according to package directions. Drain and let cool.

4. Lightly steam broccoli. Drain and cool.

5. Assemble salad in layers, ending with red quinoa. When ready to serve, spoon over salad greens and pass dressing separately rather than dressing the whole salad. Leftovers will keep better this way. Enough for 6-8 as a main course salad.


  1. Hi, Pat. Fabulous ideas for entertaining. Now, I'm on a hunt for a nice glass bowl. Might you share the size of yours?

  2. I might, but I don't know it :-) I have determined that because it's narrower at the bottom and wider at the top, it's the wrong shape to show off the bottom layers of the salad, so I am on the hunt for a nice glass bowl that's shallower but even all around. The kitchen stores have plenty of glass salad bowls to choose from, and I need a new toy.

  3. Sounds good, Pat. Once you get a new bowl, please share another composed salad.

  4. Oh my GOD. Send me some! Everything looks DELICIOUS! Am printing the recipes for Re' and I to make!

  5. I'll come to Taos and make you some if you saved the garlic press :-)

  6. This recipe is awesome! The dressing is amazing. I have made it numerous times! I like to pack it for my lunch. To keep it from getting soggy, I pack it in a big mason jar. I put the dressing at the bottom, then the toppings, and last the lettuce mix. When I am ready to eat I just shake the jar, works great!

    1. Hmmm. I was about to delete your comment as spam, but I'm glad I read it all the way through, GDSR. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope you enjoy lots of recipes here on Kitchen Excursion!