Salad Meals Just Right For Summer Evenings

When restaurant chefs create a dish that actually simplifies meal planning, it’s well worth imitating. The trend that I’ve been duplicating with delicious results combines meat or another center-of-the-plate food and salad into a beautiful entree.

It’s refreshing and easy. Rather than deciding whether an elegant lunch should have a main dish and separate salad, the two are served together. Charles Weber, a very talented Chicago chef, gave me a recipe for what I consider the most delicious example of the salad meal. It’s my summer ritual to celebrate my flourishing basil patch.

Weber’s directions, which I simplified, call for covering a salmon fillet with basil leaves, then sauteing the fish. It becomes permeated with a delicate anise flavor. The base of baby greens, generously mixed withmore basil and dressed with a simple oil, sherry vinegar and shallot combination, is a great match for the salmon.

Now that salad days are here, I recommend the following Basil Salmon with Baby Greens.

Basil Salmon with Baby Greens

1 (10-ounce) salmon fillet

8 to 10 basil leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, freshly ground white pepper

3 cups baby field greens or other mixed greens (see note)

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup minced shallots (2 large)

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Remove all bones from salmon. Arrange basil leaves on flesh side of fish.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet until very hot. Add salmon, basil-side down, and cook over medium-high heat 6 minutes. Gently turn fish over and cook second side (skin-side down) until cooked through, 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

On serving plate, combine field greens, basil and shallots. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar in cup. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over greens. Cut salmon into 2 serving portions. Arrange over greens.

Yield: 2 servings.

Note: Baby field greens, a mixture of mild and bitter greens, is available in many supermarkets. It may be called mache or European salad mix.

MEMO: Bev Bennett is food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and author of four cookbooks.

Bev Bennett is food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and author of four cookbooks.

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