Claiborne—and All Who Sailed in him—declared, “There is something about the word ‘salmagundi’ that has an unmistakable appeal for savants with a leaning toward gourmandism.” (Honestly. I can’t count number of times I’ve wanted to kick that pontifical old queen under the table).
I certainly have no ambition of being a savant, much less one learning towards gourmandism. Like many others, I simply find salmagundi—like pettifoggery, kittywampus, or hullabaloo—one of those words you want to just pick off the page, cuddle and tease with a string.
The dish is just as playful. Actually, salmagundi isn’t so much a dish as it is a presentation along the lines of an antipasto or a smorgasbord, of a selection of cold vegetables, pickles, meats, and fruit mounded on a tray.
By precedent, you want your meat, cold poached chicken atop salad greens ringed with pickles, cooked eggs, raw or blanched vegetables, citrus, nuts, sausages, and cold fish—anchovies are a classic addition, but I like smoked salmon, too. Pretty much anything goes with the notable exception of cheese, which isn’t included in any reliable historic recipe. The emphasis should be on piquancy set off by elements that are crisp and bland.