06/24/2013 02:46 EDT | Updated 08/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Shop fresh from the market for ingredients to make delicious composed salads

Present beautiful mealtime salads to your guests using seasonal ingredients that can be prepared ahead, says chef Toben Kochman.

The salads below, created by Kochman, have robust ingredients that hold up well, he says. "If you put delicate greens out on a buffet, they're going to wilt."

The salads can easily be converted to vegetarian options by adding quinoa or noodles and can be enlarged depending on the number of guests.

Jerk Seared Tuna and Island Chopped Salad

This seared tuna with a chopped salad is colourful, bright and summery, says Kochman. It plays up the idea of the islands, using more exotic ingredients can be chopped, marinated and dressed in advance. The longer it sits, the more the flavours marry.

If desired, place a little chili oil, fresh chili or cayenne pepper on the platter or individual plates as a garnish that can be mixed through.

Your fishmonger can help you with removing the bloodline from the tuna and cutting it into steaks. You can buy jerk marinade or use the recipe provided to make it from scratch.


1 kg (2 lb) fresh ahi tuna (bloodline removed, cut into rectangular steaks 15 cm by 5 cm by 5 cm (6 by 2 by 2 inches)

500 ml (2 cups) Jerk Marinade (recipe follows)

15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable or canola oil

Marinate tuna steaks in jerk marinade for 1 hour. Let tuna rest at room temperature before cooking. Season each steak with salt on all sides and sear in a very hot cast-iron skillet for 15 to 20 seconds per side. This step can be done up to 5 hours before serving and left in the fridge to cool. Slice tuna against the grain into thin 1-cm (1/2-inch) slices and fan out on top of salad a half-hour before guests arrive.

Chopped Salad

250 ml (1 cup) dry black beans

250 ml (1 cup) jicama (peeled and diced into 1-cm/1/2-inch cubes)

500 ml (2 cups) watermelon (peeled and diced into 1-cm/1/2-inch cubes)

250 ml (1 cup) mango (peeled and diced into 1-cm/1/2-inch cubes)

250 ml (1 cup) avocado (peeled and diced into 1-cm/1/2-inch cubes

50 ml (1/4 cup) finely minced red onion

250 ml (1 cup) cucumber (seeded and diced in 1-cm/1/2-inch cubes)

250 ml (1 cup) sugar snap peas

1/2 bunch Thai basil, roughly chopped

1/2 bunch mint, roughly chopped


125 ml (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed lime juice

15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh lime zest

50 ml (1/4 cup) grapeseed oil

2 ml (1/2 tsp) cayenne pepper

2 ml (1/2 tsp) cumin

2 ml (1/2 tsp) allspice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Soak beans overnight in cold water and then boil in water until just tender. (Or save time and buy canned black beans.) Steam sugar snap peas for 45 seconds, then plunge into cold water to stop cooking. Drain, dry and cut into 1-cm (1/2-inch) chunks.

In a large bowl, toss chopped beans, vegetables, fruit, basil and mint. In a separate bowl, mix together lime juice and zest, grapeseed oil, cayenne, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper. Toss salad with dressing. (The salad can be mixed together and dressed up to 2 hours before serving and left in the fridge until you are ready to plate.)

Just before serving, place salad on a large platter or divide among individual small plates or bowls. Top with seared jerk tuna slices.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Jerk Marinade

5 scallions (green onions)

5 sprigs fresh thyme (about 15 ml/1 tbsp chopped) or about 7 ml (1/2 tbsp) dried thyme

10 ml (2 tsp) salt

2 ml (1/2 tsp) black pepper

15 ml (1 tbsp) brown sugar

10 ml (2 tsp) ground allspice

5 ml (1 tsp) nutmeg

5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon

2 scotch bonnet peppers

75 ml (1/3 cup) soy sauce

30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil

50 ml (1/4 cup) vinegar

1 onion

125 ml (1/2 cup) orange juice

2 cloves garlic

5 ml (1 tsp) grated ginger

Roughly chop scallions, peppers, garlic, onion and thyme and place in a food processor or blender. Most of the heat is within the seeds and membrane that surround the seeds. To reduce the heat, discard those. For an authentic Jamaican feel, use entire pepper. (When working with hot peppers, wear gloves and avoid touching eyes.)

Add remaining ingredients and pulse to start. Then run machine at puree speed for 2 to 3 minutes until a smooth consistency is achieved.

Marinade will keep for up to a month sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Makes about 750 ml (3 cups).


Seared Angus Beef Ribeye Steak and Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad

This is Kochman's twist on the classic panzanella salad and includes kale, which "is the type of thing you can dress really far in advance and it will hold up to room temperature. You can dress it two hours ahead and it will hold its integrity. It's really nice and meaty."

Prepare the ingredients early in the morning on the day of your party or up to a couple days ahead. Leftover dressing can be used on other types of salads and vegetables.

Buy the best quality of meat that you can with lots of marbling. Ask the butcher for "dry aged" meat. You can substitute baguette or sourdough bread for the focaccia.


1 kg (2 lb) beef rib-eye, cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) steaks

22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) vegetable or canola oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Let meat warm to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking. Season each steak liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron or heavy bottomed skillet on high heat until smoking. Sear each piece of meat for 3 to 4 minutes a side for medium rare. Remove steaks to a clean baking sheet, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice very thinly against the grain. Steaks can be cooked and sliced up to 1 hour before serving. Do not refrigerate cooked steaks. Leave out at room temperature to avoid meat drying out.


1 loaf (500 g/1 lb) focaccia bread (preferably day-old), roughly torn into 4-cm (1 1/2-inch) cubes

500 ml (2 cups) fresh heirloom tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

1 red onion, sliced

500 ml (2 cups) oyster mushrooms

15 ml (1 tbsp) roughly chopped fresh thyme

15 ml (1 tbsp) finely chopped fresh rosemary

125 ml (1/2 cup) roughly chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish

750 ml (3 cups) green kale (washed, stems removed and roughly chopped)

175 ml (3/4 cup) Basil-Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Shaved cheese, for garnish (Parmesan, Manchego, goat or blue)

Toast focaccia in a 160 C (325 F) oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden on outside and completely crunchy and dry through centre. (Time will vary depending on size of bread and its moisture content.) Set croutons aside. Do not incorporate into salad until last possible moment before serving.

Grill or roast onion slices until lightly charred; cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) dice. Toss oyster mushrooms with olive oil and roast in a 200 C (400 F) oven for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, place tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, herbs and kale and dress with vinaigrette. This can be done up to 90 minutes ahead of serving.

At the last minute, toss in croutons and a little more vinaigrette to coat the bread. Serve on a large platter or place in individual bowls and garnish with slices of steak. Garnish with more chopped parsley, if desired, and shaved cheese.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Basil-Balsamic Vinaigrette

250 ml (1 cup) balsamic vinegar

50 ml (1/4 cup) basil leaves

15 ml (1 tbsp) Dijon mustard

500 ml (2 cups) extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a blender, place all ingredients and blend until smooth. Dressing will keep for up to 3 weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 l (4 cups).


Lobster Salad With Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Sherry-Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette

Ask your fishmonger to cook the lobster for you and remove the meat from the shells. For a few extra dollars, the work will be done for you by experts, says Kochman.

Roast potatoes rather than boiling them for potato salad. They will hold their shape and texture much better, Toben says.

2 Nova Scotia lobsters (each about 1 kg/2 lb)

Sherry Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Potato Salad

1.5 kg (3 lb) fingerling potatoes, halved

1 bunch asparagus

2 ears corn, husks removed

1 bulb fennel

2 links chorizo sausage, sliced into 5-cm (2-inch) slices

30 ml (2 tbsp) finely minced parsley

Steam lobster until cooked through, about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from shell and chop into 2-cm (3/4-inch) cubes. Place in a bowl. Just before serving, coat with 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the sherry vinaigrette and 15 ml (1 tbsp) salt (do not do this step any earlier or lobster will become tough and overcooked from acid in the vinaigrette).

Toss potatoes lightly in salt and pepper; place in a pan and roast in a 190 C (375 F) oven until golden and tender. Toss with some sherry vinaigrette as soon as they come out of the oven so that they best absorb flavours.

Snap off woody stems from asparagus.

To roast vegetables, coat very lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. In a 230 C (450 F) oven, asparagus will roast until lightly browned in 3 to 4 minutes, corn in 4 to 5 minutes and fennel in 6 to 7 minutes. (This step can up to 24 hours before the salad is composed.)

Cut kernels from cob and roughly chop fennel.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, sear chorizo until crispy, about 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss all ingredients and add about 125 ml (1/2 cup) more sherry vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Serve in small bowls or place on a large platter. Top with a generous serving of lobster.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Sherry Vinaigrette

250 ml (1 cup) sherry vinegar

125 ml (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice

10 ml (2 tsp) lemon zest

15 ml (1 tbsp) grainy mustard

15 ml (1 tbsp) Dijon mustard

15 ml (1 tbsp) honey

500 ml (2 cups) extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly drizzle in oil, continuing to whisk constantly until vinaigrette has fully emulsified.

Dressing can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time and will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

Makes 1 l (4 cups).

Source: Chef Toben Kochman of Toben Food by Design Inc., Toronto,