Usually « salade » is an « entrée », we eat salade at the beginning of lunch (mainly lunch but also dinner if you want). When we eat salade, we only eat salade and most of the time it means « salade verte » (lettuce). We bring a « saladier » (big salad bowl) and people help themself. All you need when you have a salade is "pain" (bread).
We mix the salad and sauce directly in the salad
Nice isn't it ?
What is a « salade composée » ?
A « salade composée » is more complex and complete. Basically you can add anything you like in a « salade composée » : vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, cheese...
Each region of France has its own recipe of « salade composée ». If you go to Normandie, you might have a « salade composée » with cream and apples, if you go to « Sud-ouest » you'll have duck, if you go to the center of France (Auvergne) you'll have blue cheese and so on.
Around Grenoble you might have walnuts and blue cheese.
If you go to the South of France, you will enjoy a « salade niçoise » a speciality from Nice : lettuce, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, black olives, anchovy !
A very famous « salade composée » is the « salade chèvre chaud ».