This week I am sharing three of my favorite springtime salad recipes: Sarah’s Symphony Salad, a classic Salade Niçoise, and a savory Mediterranean Steak Salad. All three recipes are composed salads, which means that rather than tossing everything together, these salads are arranged in a way that makes each ingredient stand out.

With a composed salad, you can adjust the size as needed to accommodate large gatherings or just a simple night of culinary grazing for two. As an added bonus, each recipe also includes a vinaigrette, so that you will also have three great salad dressing recipes that can be served with any salad.

Enjoy!

Sarah’s Symphony Salad

This composed salad is built and dressed in layers and received its name because of its beautiful composition. It will easily serve six to eight guests and can be made in larger batches as needed. I created this dish to bring to a baby shower several years ago and left with multiple requests for the recipe.

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With a minty citrus vinaigrette as the inspiration, the salad features a host of ingredients to complement those flavors, including baby arugula, asparagus, scallions, fennel, chickpeas, slivered almonds and crispy prosciutto. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance and is also excellent with fish, chicken and even lamb dishes.

Symphony Salad is made with baby arugula, fennel, garbanzo beans, grilled asparagus and topped with crispy prosciutto. Forum file photo
Symphony Salad is made with baby arugula, fennel, garbanzo beans, grilled asparagus and topped with crispy prosciutto. Forum file photo

Symphony Salad with Minty Orange Dressing

Serves: 6 to 8

Minty Orange Dressing

Ingredients:

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a Mason jar, cover and shake vigorously until well-combined. Taste and add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper as desired. Refrigerate for up to 1 week. Best when made at least 2 hours before serving.

The asparagus can be grilled, blanched or raw. Forum file photo
The asparagus can be grilled, blanched or raw. Forum file photo

Symphony Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 pieces prosciutto (as thin as possible), sliced into thin strips 2 inches long

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, grilled, blanched or raw

5-ounce package of baby arugula

1 medium or 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly shaved

2 scallions, white ends only, thinly sliced on a diagonal (bias)

1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

Minty Orange Dressing

Directions:

Coat the bottom of a small pan with the vegetable oil, then cook the prosciutto strips over medium heat for about 5 to 6 minutes, until they are deep red and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside to cool on a paper towel.

In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine orange zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. If grilling the asparagus, toss in the marinade, then grill and cut into 1-inch pieces; if serving asparagus blanched, blanch and then cut into 1-inch pieces and toss in the marinade.

In a large bowl, toss arugula in 2 tablespoons of dressing; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again. Place arugula on platter in an even layer.

In the same bowl, toss the shaved fennel and sliced scallions in 1 tablespoon of dressing, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, then scatter evenly around the arugula. Repeat for asparagus pieces and then the chickpeas, separately.

Sprinkle toasted almonds evenly around the salad, then drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of dressing over the entire dish. Garnish the center width of the salad with crispy prosciutto strips. Serve and enjoy.

Classic Salade Niçoise

Niçoise salad is topped with dressing made with anchovies, good Dijon mustard and shallots. It can also be tossed and served in a sandwich. Forum file photo
Niçoise salad is topped with dressing made with anchovies, good Dijon mustard and shallots. It can also be tossed and served in a sandwich. Forum file photo

This classic French salad is one of my favorite springtime salad recipes, or anytime I am looking for lighter fare that does not skimp on flavor. I love the composition of this Niçoise Salad, as the artful arrangement makes it easy to assemble, visually appealing and attractive even to picky eaters, who can pick and choose which components they favor.

My recipe features tuna, green beans, baby potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions, and a zesty Garlic Dijon Dressing that gets a burst of savory umami from the inclusion of anchovies. I like to make enough for leftovers so that we can enjoy Pan Bagnat the next day, a traditional French sandwich made of French bread and salade niçoise.

Salade Niçoise & Pan Bagnat, Nasello-Style

Serves: 2 to 4

Sarah’s Garlic Dijon Dressing

Ingredients:

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

4 anchovies (oil-packed), minced

1 ½ teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon water (if needed)

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup canola oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Place all ingredients, except the oils, water salt and pepper, in a food processor or medium bowl and mix or whisk until combined. Mix the 2 oils together and slowly add them in, mixing or whisking constantly until emulsified and dressing appears pale yellow and creamy. If the dressing is too thick, adjust with up to 1 tablespoon of water. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Niçoise salad is topped with dressing made with anchovies, good Dijon mustard and shallots. Forum file photo
Niçoise salad is topped with dressing made with anchovies, good Dijon mustard and shallots. Forum file photo

Salade Niçoise

Ingredients:

1 pound baby potatoes (use variety of purple, red, gold if available); slice purple potatoes into half-inch rounds; red and gold can be quartered

4 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and quartered

6 to 8 ounces fresh green beans, blanched (a large handful)

3 medium-large tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 English cucumber, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds

2 5-ounce cans wild skipjack light tuna, drained

¼ cup spring onions (scallions), sliced thinly on the bias

1 cup good black olives, pitted

Sarah’s Garlic Dijon Dressing

Directions:

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and cook over medium-high heat until potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes if using baby potatoes, longer if larger. Remove and rinse with cold water to stop cooking set aside to cool. Once cooled, slice purple potatoes into ½-inch rounds; red and gold can be quartered.

As potatoes cook, place eggs in another pot and cover with at least 1 inch of cold water. Set pan over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes for firm yet creamy yolks, or 15 minutes for very firm yolks. Save the boiling water for blanching green beans. Fill a bowl with ice water and use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs to cold water for at least 1 minute to stop cooking. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 week.

For easy peeling, simply place an egg in a glass and cover with about an inch of water. Cover the top of the glass with one hand and shake glass vigorously from side to side for about 10 seconds. The peel will easily slip off once cracked.

Bring pot of water back to a boil, add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and place green beans and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice and water; set aside. After 2 minutes, taste a bean — it should feel tender-crisp, not too hard or too soft. If still hard, continue blanching for 1 more minute. Remove beans and transfer immediately to ice water until cool, at least 1 minute. Drain beans and pat dry: can be refrigerated overnight until ready to use.

On a large platter, colorfully arrange each ingredient by group. Purple potatoes work beautifully next to hard-boiled eggs, with bright green beans on the opposite side. Fill in remaining area with rest of ingredients, paying close attention to color and size of each ingredient. Drizzle generously with dressing.

To make Pan Bagnat: Chop up remaining ingredients and toss together with more tuna and dressing as desired. Refrigerate up to 1 day. Use your hands to scoop out the inside from a loaf of French bread (whole wheat or white). Brush insides with more dressing and fill with niçoise mixture.

Mediterranean Steak Salad

Mediterranean Steak Salad features marinated grilled tip sirloin atop a bed of romaine lettuce with feta cheese, Kalamata olives, red onion, cucumber, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and dressing. Forum file photo
Mediterranean Steak Salad features marinated grilled tip sirloin atop a bed of romaine lettuce with feta cheese, Kalamata olives, red onion, cucumber, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and dressing. Forum file photo

This savory salad is a favorite of my two men at home, and I make it almost once a week throughout the spring and summer as a healthy and flavorful main course.

Grilling meat is a terrific way to add flavor to a salad, and for this recipe top sirloin is seasoned with a liquid marinade consisting of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, dried oregano, lemon zest, crushed red peppers, salt and pepper. The steak should be marinated for at least two to 24 hours before grilling, and the more time allowed will maximize the flavor and tenderness of the steak.

Romaine lettuce forms the base of this composed salad, as its crispy crunch and sturdy leaves make it the perfect partner for grilled steak. The salad is rounded out with Mediterranean ingredients that are robust enough to balance grilled meat, including Kalamata olives, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cucumbers.

I chose to make a simple dressing for this boldly flavored salad, using fresh lemon and dried herbs that would brighten up the salad ingredients without overpowering the savory grilled flavor. The result is a savory, fragrant and filling mix of healthy, fresh flavors that you can gobble up, guilt-free.

Mediterranean Steak Salad

Serves: 4

Mediterranean Dressing

Ingredients:

3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

In medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons lemon juice, water, oregano, basil, salt and pepper until combined. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified. Taste and add more lemon juice and seasoning as desired. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Top sirloin is marinated in a red wine vinaigrette, then grilled on both sides. Forum file photo
Top sirloin is marinated in a red wine vinaigrette, then grilled on both sides. Forum file photo

Mediterranean Steak

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak, fat trimmed

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Dash of crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Pinch of sugar (about 1/16 teaspoon)

Directions:

In medium bowl, add all ingredients, except steak, and whisk until well-combined. Place steak in a large plastic zipper bag and cover with all the marinade. Seal bag and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Before grilling, remove steak from bag and let meat come to room temperature.

Grill steak over high, direct heat, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until desired temperature is achieved, 135 to 140 degrees for medium-rare. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy.

When meat is ready, remove from grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Use a sharp knife to thinly slice sirloin. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.

Mediterranean Steak Salad

Ingredients:

1 head romaine lettuce, or 2 romaine hearts, washed, dried and chopped

1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped into pieces 1-inch long and ¼-inch wide

½ red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 English cucumber or 2 mini cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then in half-moon slices ½-inch thick

1 small jar (7.5 ounces) artichoke hearts, quartered, marinated or plain

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

10 small-medium cocktail tomatoes, quartered

½ cup Kalamata olives

Mediterranean Dressing

Mediterranean Steak

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Directions:

Lightly toss chopped romaine lettuce in olive oil until evenly coated. Sprinkle lettuce with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and toss to combine. Transfer lettuce to serving plates or platter.

Place remaining ingredients, except avocado, in a medium bowl and gently toss with half the dressing until well-coated. Serve remaining dressing on the side.

To assemble salad, evenly distribute dressed ingredients over romaine lettuce, then top with 3 to 4 ounces sliced sirloin. Garnish with sliced avocado.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.