Joni Woolf: Have you ever ‘composed’ a salad?

Published 12:06 pm Monday, July 25, 2016

Have you ever ‘composed’ a salad?
Reading is such an enlightening exercise. I wish those who lived in the world of Facebook and Twitter did more of it. The world might be a kinder, gentler place. Forty characters simply cannot convey all that one might learn in, say, an entire paragraph or column! Today, for instance, I was reading the newspaper online and came across the recipe for the day, which was for a “composed salad.” Always looking for new ideas, I read it through and through, then went to the Internet to find out more. I began to realize that I had in fact seen them: I just didn’t know what they were called.
This week I’ll be entertaining two old friends, a married couple, both Australians who have been in this country some 20 years, and in fact, hold dual citizenship. Both Episcopal priests in Atlanta, they love their adopted country, and are looking forward to leaving the city and coming to Southwest Georgia, on their way to the coast.
Because one is diabetic, I’ve been worrying about what to prepare. Wanting to be careful of his diet, but wanting to offer something attractive and healthy, I seized upon the idea of a composed salad. Though I won’t be preparing it with tofu, or some of the other ingredients mentioned in the online recipe, I began to think about just what I might offer. I came up with my own list of ingredients, realizing that I had seen these salads before; I just did not know what to call them.
In a composed salad, ingredients are not mixed. Rather, they are laid in attractive rows, and in larger pieces than a traditional salad. First a bed of some kind of greens — romaine, Boston, other lettuces, maybe some arugula is prepared for the base, on a large platter. Then items of your choice are placed in neat rows across the greens. After checking out several different recipes, I decided I preferred to choose my own, and this is what I plan: rows of sauteed squash, steamed okra, sliced boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, rotisserie chicken, sliced beets, boiled new potatoes — a regular feast of many choices. And served this way, the guest can choose only the vegetables and/or meats they prefer. If it were all mixed together, he would have to pick out the parts he could not, or would not eat. (I, for one, always pick out the cucumbers in an ordered salad, but the flavor has already affected the salad.)
Top this off with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing; add a loaf of crusty bread and a  good bottle of wine and voila! You have a meal.
Today I came through Montezuma and found Brown’s Farm Market in a state of siege. There were busses from all over Georgia, and long lines waiting patiently for the friendly cashier to ring up their purchases. The wait was worth it. The magnificent Elberta peaches have arrived. They are more beautiful than remembered, and they were selling like hotcakes. I bought a peck, and plan to make preserves this weekend when they are full ripe. I will offer my guests a large serving of the famous Elbertas, a variety created right here in Georgia, and the queen of all peaches. I will top it off  with a little whipped cream, and they will realize there is nothing better than a Georgia peach. My guests may never leave.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at