The salad course is often the most over looked, yet is one most important courses in a meal. Many chefs use a lot of thought and energy in the main course, dessert or appetizers and neglect the great opportunities that this course offers.
When considering a salad course in a menu whether as an entrée or a course in a menu gastronomique it is important to think through how the salad will fit the theme of the meal and add to the overall meal experience. To accomplish this you must think of the salad's place in the meal as far as its flavor, texture, nutritional content and portion size with in the meal as well as on its own.
When considering flavor it is important to understand where the salad will come in the meal. For example if the salad is being used as an appetizer or prior to the main course it would be important to have the flavors balanced in a way that would prepare the palate for the next course. In this case a light dressing with an acid base is usually used so as not to over power the palate for the next course. A salad served prior to the main course usually does not use cheese of products that could coat the palate and impair the palette and continuity of the meal.
Salads used as main courses usually will have more dominant ingredients that blend together be the high themed flavor point with in the menu.
Salads served after the main course are usually used as a palate cleanser preparing the palate for the dessert. In these cases dressings with a higher acidic quality are used, though sometimes with a cheese accompaniment.
In each case the salad course offers an opportunity to add texture to the meal. A light crisp pleasing mouth feel will stimulate the guest's interest as to proceed through the meal.
This course also offers the chance to help balance a menu nutritionally with the use of greens and vegetables.
A salad's layout requires concern for balance. The focal point should be the main ingredient. The overall appearance of the salad should have a flow that is pleasing to the eye. It should not be busy or confused.