Dazzling Salad Towers

August 11th, 2009

They say that if you find at least one recipe that you love in a cookbook it is worth the price that you paid for it. I have just begun reading a new cookbook that I purchased at one of my favorite haunts, The Screen Door in Asheville. The Screen Door is basically an antique mall with an emphasis on garden design, but one section of the store is devoted to books and more books. They are all new books with an emphasis on cookbooks and design books. The prices are at least 40% off of the retail price and sometimes you can find terrific bargains like the book I purchased. Are you ready for this? I found a James Beard Foundation winner by Peggy Knickerbocker called Simple Soirees; Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties, for $7.00. The list price on the book is $35.00. It would be worth it even if I had paid full price for it for this sensational salad recipe. And there are many more eye poppers just like it in this beautiful book.

The beauty of this salad is the beauty. I love the luscious layers that are created by four separate salads that can be made ahead of time and assembled quickly at meal time. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, but it tastes sublime. There is so much complexity to each layer that taken as a whole, it sparks taste buds that you never knew you even had. I can hardly wait to serve it to guests. The only thing you need that you may not have is a 4 or 5 inch metal ring open on the top and bottom that you can buy at a cooking or hardware store. If you do not wish to buy one you can layer the four salads in a trifle bowl.


For the Shrimp Salad:
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp
2 Tbls fresh lemon juice

Splash of olive oil
2 green onions, minced

Bring 1 cup of water, the bay leaf, wine, peppercorns, and salt to a boil in a small pot. Add the shrimp, reduce the heat to a moderate simmer, and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink. Drain, rinse briefly in cold water, and spread out on the side of the sink until cool. Peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil, and green onions. Cover and refrigerate. This can be done hours before the party.

For the Tomato Salad:
4 large tomatoes, cored and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
10 large basil leaves cut into thin strips
2 Tbls olive oil

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper to taste, the garlic, basil, and olive oil. Cover and refrigerate. Right before assembling, transfer the salad to a colander to drain the excess juices.

For the Avocado Salad:
3 to 4 ripe Hass avocaos, peeled with seed removed
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 medium tomato, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeno chili, slit lengthwise, seeded, and minced
A pinch of brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands, leaving some chunks.

For the Cucumber Salad:
1 small clove of garlic
1 Tbls capers, drained
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
Black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 English cucumber
1 Tbls chopped oregano

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and salt together to make a paste. Add the capers and pound again. Add the vinegar and pepper and mix with a fork. Then add the olive oil and mix again with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice each half into thin pieces. Add cucumber pieces to bowl and toss with dressing. Sprinkle with oregano and toss again. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

To Assemble the Stacked Salad:

Place one 4 to 5 inch ring in the center of a dinner plate. Gently spoon in a layer of the avocado salad and smooth it with the back of the spoon Using a slotted spoon, place a layer of the tomato salad on top of the avocado salad. Then using a slotted spoon, place a layer of the cucumber salad on top of the tomato salad. Arrange a layer of shrimp salad attractively on top of the cucumber salad. Very gently remove the ring. Repeat the procedure for each serving. Makes 6 towers.

Printable recipe

17 responses to “Dazzling Salad Towers”

  1. That sounds and looks like the PERFECT summer dish! When were you at the Screen Door? I was there this past Wednesday with my sister who was visiting….Didn’t get into the book room this time. She was more interested in antiques..

  2. Penny says:

    Hi Penny, I was there on Saturday. David and I were looking for rugs and accessories for the lower level of the house – the fun part of decorating. My best to your sister. Enjoy your visti!
    Hugs to you too,

  3. Shrimp, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado – these are some of my favorite things. This looks fabulous. A new cookbook, a James Beard Foundation winner and a bargain too. How can we resist? I certainly would have not passed it by. Looks great Penny.

  4. ARLENE says:

    What a beautiful–and delicious–dish. HOw perfect for summertime.

  5. Katy ~ says:

    Dinner party elegant. Looks superb!

  6. Bella says:

    That salad looks and sounds perfect. And I just love Asheville. 🙂

  7. WOW! I’m making this. Beautiful!
    The ring is it like a big cookie cutter?

  8. Penny says:

    The ring I have is a biscuit cutter. The dimensions are 4 1/2″ wide and 1 3/4″ deep. I got it with a set of biscuit cutter, 4 in number with this being the largest. The set was $6.99. If you can’t find one I could get one for you and mail it to you.

  9. Mary says:

    Those salad towers are the prettiest thing I’ve seen on a plate. The combination of ingredients is spot on. I feel safe in declaring you have another winner here. I’m going to try the library to get a look at the book. You got a real bargain.

  10. Lyla says:

    Absolutely perfect. Your positive attitude makes me believe I can do it. Thanks for writing so welcomingly and well.

  11. Grace says:

    dazzling indeed! this is a stupendous use for a biscuit cutter! if i didn’t love biscuits so much, i would say that this is the best use ever. 🙂

  12. Ann's blog says:

    Hello ladies, I am SO glad I have found your blog, I am a passionate cook and also a quilter! I am new to blogging and have added myself as a ‘follower’ of your blog. I cannot wiat to try some of your recipes. I am from Australia. My blog address is http://annsquiltingjourney.blogspot.com/ Please add yourself as a follower. Tonight for our dinner we are having homemade pizza’s with garlic prawns, red onion, spinach leaves, feta and mozzarella! Happy cooking! Ann

  13. Christine says:

    That is a beautiful salad, Penny. So many wonderful, fresh ingredients and such a beautiful presentation!

  14. BMK says:

    I love great cookbook finds and this looks like one for sure! What a stunning presentation!

  15. Kate says:

    I am having so much fun on your blog! This looks simply delicious. You are certain to get rave reviews from you guests! I must give this a try. Beautiful photograph!

  16. Very pretty yours looks great. I tried one and it callapsed… didn’t have all the ingredients in the mixed salad…. HMMM need to try again

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