“We eat first with our eyes”
-Apicius, 1st Century Roman gourmand
This simple salad illustrates the power of presentation, all thanks to a ring mold. Ring molds are now easy to find and with little effort allow us to elevate the visual appeal of our meals-
as long as the contents are the right consistency to hold the shape. There are a few simple things to keep in mind: 1) Prepare all ingredients and have them lined up and ready to go before assembling 2) Gently layer the layers into the mold, starting with denser ingredients first and fragile or lighter layers last, taking care to not be too hard on the previous layers. With this specific salad, you will want to be careful to not break the parmesan crisp. Add the greens last (do not pack them down), just as you are about to remove the mold. Then add any garnishes and serve immediately. If it sounds complicated, trust me, it is not- just try it and you’ll see how easy it is. A beautiful salad automatically tastes better and is well worth the effort! Here is a ring mold if you do not already own one.
Ring molds have multiple uses that range from sweet to savory dishes. With them you can create salads (layered or already combined), entrees, vegetables and desserts. The possibilities are versatile and the rings are easy to work with. I use mine for tartare, polenta, layered desserts, or towered entrees like mashed potatoes topped with spinach, sliced steak, and mushrooms. Whether you use them for the entire course or one element on your plate, they will add visual interest to your presentation.
For this recipe I use a parmesan crisp for the crunchy layer. They are delicate so you will want to be careful not to place them too far down in the stack so they don’t break as you gently press the layers into the mold. If you don’t have access to the store bought crisps at your local grocery store, they are easy to make (see note in recipe link). This brings us to a second set of rings that are useful to own…
To make parmesan crisps, I chose one of the rings from the set pictured below that was just slightly smaller than the size of the salad ring mold. I chose a ring size that would fit closely into the salad ring.
This set is great to have on hand- I use mine more than I ever thought I would- the variety sizes are nice to have on hand for polenta, mini pizzas, cookies, pastas, biscuits, perfectly round fried eggs, you name it- once you own them you will find endless uses for them. The protective container takes up very little space in a drawer. Purchase here.
The Bistro salad can be made for one or many, making the ingredients completely scalable. If you have never used a ring mold, I suggest experimenting with a meal just for yourself first to get the hang of it. The glamorous result is far easier than it looks. Just have fun with it!
- Slice of a ripe tomato (try to find one that is about the size of your ring mold or slightly larger in diameter)
- Sliced chicken breast
- Crumbled goat cheese, at room temperature
- evenly sliced hearts of palm
- Chopped avocado, mixed with a little mashed avocado and lemon juice
- Parmesan crisp (some of the fancier grocery stores sell these, or you can make them yourself if you can't find them to buy)*
- Baby greens with fresh herbs tossed in a light champagne vinaigrette dressing*
- garnish- a few shaved carrot slices and fresh chives
- Prep all of your ingredients and have them lined up, ready to go, with the ring mold(s). This is referred to as "Mise en place", which means "putting in place", a setup used in professional kitchens for efficiency and accuracy.
- Place the tomato slice in the center of the plate as your starting layer. Gently position the ring mold atop the tomato and add the chicken slices, arranging the chicken slices in even, circular positioning (keeping in mind how the perimeter will look when you gently remove the mold just before serving).
- Add the room temperature goat cheese, again in an even layer that extends to the edges of the ring mold.
- Add the evenly sliced hearts of palm across the next layer, starting from the outside of the ring and moving inward, again keeping in mind what the finished product will look like). Very gently press the hearts of palm slightly into the goat cheese layer- only enough to help your maintain the shape when the ring mold is lifted- if assembled too lightly, the ingredients will fall- if assembled with too much force… you definitely don't want that either. Just plan to be gentle yet mindful with your work of culinary art.
- Add the chopped avocado layer.
- Gently add the parmesan crisp layer.
- Lightly toss the greens with salad dressing and gently add just before or as you lift the ring mold.
- Garnish with a few shaved carrot slices and fresh chives.
*to make Parmesan Crisps- Preheat oven to 400. Pour about 2-3 heaping tablespoons of grated parmesan onto a silcone or parchment lined baking sheet (foil will not work), lightly patting it to the bottom and to the edges, remembering that you will need to lift them off of the cookie sheet later. Use more if necessary to accomodate the size of your ring mold. (This is completely scalable and not scientific.) Bake 3-5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool.
***A general rule of thumb for a french vinaigrette is a 3:1 ratio, 3 parts nice quality olive oil to 1 part champagne vinegar. Then add one egg, salt and pepper and whisk to emulsify. If you have a shaker cup with a wire whisk ball, try making your dressings in it for a speedy no-mess prep. Any dressing that you make with a raw egg should be kept in the refrigerator until use and used day-of. Plan to lightly toss the baby greens with a little dressing at the very end, just before adding them to the top of stack.
I hope you enjoy working with these ring molds as much as I do. Bon Appetit~
Ready to try another ring mold salad?