I make variations of this main-course salad several times every summer; it's perfect for nights when it's too hot to cook, and it looks so beautiful that it's great for heat-weary guests. We had it last Sunday, actually, when a friend came over for a late dinner, and the three of us sat out on the terrace in candlelight, eating this salad and a loaf of good French bread. Follow it with some sorbet or ice cream and a little dark chocolate for dessert and everyone will go to bed happy. The original recipe is from a great 1993 cookbook called Pacific Flavors that's now out-of-print; I see there are still some used copies available at Amazon. The 1990s California-Asian-fusion food styling looks really dated now, but the recipes are excellent.
All I'm going to do here is give you a construction guide; choose whatever pleases your taste and looks best in the market.
FOR THE SALAD:
-- Mixed greens, washed and torn into pieces; might contain some radicchio or red-leaf lettuce for color and some frisee, arugula, and/or watercress for texture
--Cooked shrimp [5-6 med large per person] OR scallops, chunks of cold, cooked firm-fleshed fish, or even chicken. I've never tried it with grilled tofu but it would probably be good.
-- Papaya chunks, OR mango, cantaloupe, even peaches or nectarines (Don't use too many fruits together, last time I used papaya and cantaloupe, I often use just mango)
-- Red, yellow, and/or orange peppers, cut lengthwise into strips
-- cold, blanched and rinsed snow peas or sugar snaps (you could also use cold broccoli)
-- cold cooked corn cut off the cob (try to keep some sections of kernels together by cutting fairly deeply)
--lightly toasted pine nuts OR almonds
FOR THE DRESSING:
Thai dressing should taste sweet, salty, spicy and sour all at once, but the proportion is up to you. I'd suggest starting with 3 T lime juice; 1 1/2 Thai fish sauce [substitute tamari or soy sauce if you can't get fish sauce or don't like it]; 2T canola oil or 1T canola + 1T sesame oil; 1/2 t Chinese chili sauce (a thick paste that comes in jars) or asian hot sauce (the more liquid red stuff that comes in bottles) or hot pepper flakes to taste; and 2 t brown sugar. (You can also use maple syrup.) Whisk or shake all of that together and taste it, and start adjusting the flavors until you like it. Just don't make it too sweet; the salty/hot/lime-juicey flavor wants to be clearly discernible. Depending on the size of your salad, you may need to make a bit more or less.
On a large flat platter or shallow dish 14" - 20" in diameter make a bed of mixed greens, torn into pieces. On top of the greens arrange your choices of ingredients. I always include some shrimp or chicken, some kind of fruit, something green, and some combination of colored peppers. The corn is nice if you've got a leftover ear or two. You can arrange everything formally or scatter the colors abstractly on the greens; usually I do it the latter way. Whatever you do, aim for a pleasing mix of colors and forms and textures. Then add the nuts, and finally drizzle the dressing over everything. Don't toss the salad, but bring it to the table that way, and let the guests serve themselves. They will love looking at it AND eating it!