Avoiding the Iceberg

Customers demand has decreed that salads go beyond iceberg lettuce and a few tomatoes. These days creative salad concoctions such as a salad of summer nectarines and grilled loin of venison are a great way to grab customer's attention, while still giving them the fresh salad options they crave. 

Six chefs take a fresh look at ingredients and presentation.

Baja-style salad rolls

The arrival of spring inspired Adam Navidi to go on a roll with salad ingredients. “My avocado Caesar spring rolls are simple to replicate and fun to eat,” says the Orange County, Calif. executive chef. “The delicate, garden-fresh romaine and cilantro contrast with the mighty Caesar dressing infused with jalapeños.” Hass avocados, tomatoes and red onion round out the produce picks. These salad rolls often star at Navidi’s catered events.

Palms house salad

Salads and oceanfront dining are naturally compatible and the menu at The Palms in Miami Beach offers plenty of choices. A guest favorite for a light lunch is the signature house salad—a lively mix of mesclun, yellow and red tomatoes, avocado, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries; crumbled mild blue cheese tops it off. When creating a salad, executive chef Gerd Richter keeps an eye on health, often incorporating Floribbean flavors and tropical accents.

Caprese salad

Alessandro Passante, co-owner of Naima in New York City, hails from the Isle of Capri and a number of the dishes on his modern Italian menu are adapted from family recipes. To ramp up the presentation of this traditional antipasto, the kitchen shapes a salad bowl from grated and baked Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fills it with arugula, tomatoes and bufala mozzarella. Italian olive oil is drizzled over all.

Salad of summer nectarines and grilled loin of venison

Farm-to-table dinners are a specialty of chef Robbie Lewis at Bacar restaurant in San Francisco. In fact, he is well known for his “Outstanding in the Field” events, where dinner is set on a long table “between the soil and the sky” and hosted by a farmer, vintner or forager. This seasonal salad highlights fresh California nectarines, Belgian endive, toasted pistachios and grilled loin of Cervena venison—an innovative protein choice. Rosemary-honey vinaigrette ties the ingredients together.

Tuna tataki with avocado dressing

Vertical composition and global ingredients make this salad stand above the crowd. At Sushi Samba, the 7-location Japanese-Latin fusion concept, the plating starts with a base of tatsoi (an Asian green), hearts of palm, bell pepper strips and avocado pieces, then continues with starchy boniato chips, yuzu-marinated yellowfin tuna and avocado slices. A citrusy avocado dressing completes the composition.

Spago BLT salad

Eric Klein, executive chef at Spago in Las Vegas, wanted to turn the baby iceberg lettuce he sources from a California farmer into a signature salad on his café menu. “I came up with the idea of a BLT—the classic flavors of bacon, lettuce and tomato work so well together,” he says. Heirloom cherry tomatoes and a pepperoncini vinaigrette enriched with sour cream pump up the presentation and taste.

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