If I were a salad, I would never live in a place that would dress me in plain old iceberg lettuce with one mealy slice of tomato and three carrot shavings and then toss me unceremoniously on a table as nothing more than an afterthought. (You know who you are.)
If I were a salad, I would live in a place that would never allow such a thing. I would have to move to France.
For the French would never throw together a handful of meager ingredients in a big plastic bowl and drown it with bottled thousand island dressing. Oh mon Dieu! Mais non, the French would never allow it! They don’t toss a salad; they arrange it - so the array of colorful ingredients and textures each have center stage - like the paint palette of Monet or Van Gogh.
I would spend winters in Paris, in that cafe I once visited in the Latin Quarter, where leaves of crunchy endive circled the plate like a frame, holding lucious pear slices and crunchy walnuts and creamy Brie cheese and just enough vinaigrette to make it shine. I would spend summers in the Maritime Alps, just north of the Riviera, in that medieval stone village perched high on a mountaintop, where that tiny restaurant served a salad so spectacular with its rows of red tomatoes and yellow eggs and white potatoes and salty anchovies, it was worthy of a photograph.
And I will return home only... only... if you will promise to dress me in something other than tepid lettuce and old carrots. (You know who you are.)
LATIN QUARTER SALAD
with Pears and Walnuts
3 heads Belgian endive, leaves separated
1 small head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized
1 head Boston lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
2 Bosc pears, sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, sautéed in ½ tsp.
butter until golden
1/3 lb. Brie cheese, cubed
Dressing: 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons raspberry (or other fancy) vinegar
1 tablespoon grainy brown mustard
Pinch of sugar
Salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste
Rinse lettuces in cold water, wrap in tea towel and refrigerate at least two hours. Meanwhile prepare remaining ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.
On individual dinner-sized plates, arrange endive leaves around the rim of the plate. Place other lettuces, mixed, in center. Place pear slices in pinwheel fashion in center of salad. Sprinkle salad with walnuts and Brie cheese. Drizzle dressing over. Serve with perhaps, roasted Cornish game hens; and most certainly, with French bread and unsalted butter. Serves 4.
FRENCH MOUNTAIN SALAD
6 cups torn mixed greens, such as red-leaf, Bibb, Boston, spinach, and Romaine
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into wedges
3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
6 small red-skin potatoes, sliced and boiled until
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and cut into wedges
12 pitted black olives
1 small tin anchovy fillets, drained
Dressing: 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Pinch of sugar
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Rinse lettuce in cold water, wrap in tea towel and refrigerate at least two hours. Meanwhile, prepare salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.
Spread lettuce on large serving platter. Arrange egg wedges around the border. Next, arrange tomatoes, alternating with cooked potato slices. Pile artichoke wedges in the center. Dot salad with olives. Drape anchovy fillets over tomatoes. Drizzle with dressing. Serve with perhaps, thick beef tenderloin steaks with edges wrapped in thin slices of bacon and broiled; and most certainly, with French bread and unsalted butter.