There are two ways to make a salad: Put everything in a bowl, add the dressing, and toss it all together; or arrange and layer everything on invidividual plates, drizzling the dressing on top of each. The latter is a "composed salad." It makes an eye-catching presentation with all the various ingredients displayed on the plate. This gallery explains just how to do it, step-by-step.
Start with 2 cups shredded lettuce per person
You can use bagged mixes, or you can choose two lettuces and shred them together: Bibb and romaine, iceberg and endive, red leaf and baby oak leaf, spinach and radicchio. Think about pairing similar if slightly contrasting tastes: bold arugula with bold endive, mild mesclun mix with mild iceburg lettuce for crunch. Yes, you can mix the bold and the mild, but you must be careful: Radicchio will overpower baby oak leaf lettuce. You'll need to balance the two with a creamy, slightly sweet dressing. Arrange the shredded leaves on the plates.
Add 3 ounces of protein per plate
Choose from skinless rotisserie chicken, precooked shrimp, grilled or poached salmon (or purchased salmon from the prepared food counter), canned or grilled tuna, crabmeat, diced ham, or even roast turkey from the deli counter (but know that these last two are high in sodium). Place the protein on top of the salad greens.
Add 1 cup veggies and/or fruit per person
Try small broccoli florets, shredded zucchini or carrots, canned quartered artichoke hearts (packed in water and drained), thin bell pepper strips, snow peas, sugar snap peas, thinly sliced red onion or celery, sliced peaches, sliced nectarines, whole berries, sliced apples, sliced pears, or even sliced dried apricots. Choose several, maybe 1/3 cup each of three. Remember: Variety is the spice of salads as well as life! Sprinkle any of these on top of the protein and around the greens.
Give It Some Crunch
For crunch, add 2 tablespoons toasted chopped nuts per serving. Choose from shelled pistachios, cashews, pecans, or walnuts―but look for unsalted roasted nuts to keep the sodium in check. Or skip the nuts altogether, and add a few crunchy croutons, preferably ones you make yourself from day-old cubed bread in a dry skillet over medium heat. Dot these all around the plates.
If you'd like, add 1 ounce shredded, shaved, or crumbled cheese per person―blue cheese, Parmesan, cheddar, Gouda, fresh goat cheese, or another of your favorites. Sprinkle the cheese over the plates.
Drizzle the Dressing
Drizzle two or three tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing over each salad. If you have a bottled favorite you'd like to use, read the label, and make sure you're using a low-sodium dressing.
Add the Seasoning
Add several grinds of black pepper to each plate, and you're ready to enjoy a tasty, easy meal.