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Salmagundi is a general term for a wide variety of prepared salads and similar dishes that include a lot of different elements, such as meats or other proteins, cheeses, vegetables, oils, and other dressings. All of this can seem very vague, and over the term of its use, the word has been broadly applied to prepared foods. The common convention for salmagundi is to include all of these items on a wide, flat plate, and to drizzle the dressing or oils over the entire plate.
Some people attribute salmagundi to classic British society. The word is by origin essentially French, and refers to a somewhat random array of elements. Synonyms for this word include “hodge-podge” and “olio,” and all of these can refer to more than just a salad or food item. For example, a salmagundi can also be a shop or store that sells many eclectic items.
Among the many types of meats included in this dish, chicken, beef, turkey, veal and pork are all somewhat common ingredients. Various cheeses can accompany these. Occasionally, seafood products might be included in some versions of salmagundi, including sardines or anchovies, as well as smoked or pickled herring, which is a staple in some regions of the world.
In addition to the above, salmagundi can also include many vegetable elements, from lettuce, cucumbers and other green vegetables, to other items like tomatoes and olives. Other proteins can also be included, such as hard-boiled eggs, or a variety of nuts. For example, almonds, peanuts, walnuts or other locally available nuts may be added on top of the other salad elements.
Aside from the more varied kinds of dishes that cooks may refer to as salmagundis, a more distinct version of this dish is known in Caribbean areas as "Solomon Gundy". This variant of the dish includes pickled herring. Cooks add peppers and onions, as well as other flavor ingredients, to the fish.
In using this sort of recipe as part of contemporary, international or eclectic cuisine, or in a particular culinary context, it’s important for cooks to understand its historic uses. There is a good amount of flexibility in what constitutes this dish, but to use it correctly, the cook should be able to come up with historic examples or bases for an inspired version that he or she creates. For a cook who can do this, salmagundi can be a very useful way to present a whole lot of different foods in a very creative way.
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