I make my lunch the night before. Sometimes it’s part of dinner prep, other times it’s after dinner when I assess the leftovers situation. If I leave it to the morning lunch making just won’t happen. That’s why my go-to lunch is a salad…sans lettuce. What’s a salad without the lettuce you ask? I say it’s a delicious and convenient lunch and let me tell you why. The beauty of a non-lettuce salad is that it can be made the night before and dressed, ready to grab on your way out the door in the morning and it will still be in great shape the next day when lunchtime rolls around (whereas a lettuce salad would wilt and not be appetizing).
For me, the key to making great lunch salads is having elements ready to go so that I can assemble the lunch quickly. Once a week I shred 15 or 20 carrots in my food processor. Then I have them on hand, ready to use in salads during the week. With shredded carrots in my fridge, the probability of my making a salad, whether for lunch or dinner or both, goes up significantly. Why do I love shredded carrots so much? They are easier to eat in a salad and they absorb dressing better than chopped or sliced carrots do.
Here’s how I put together a lunch salad:
The base: Start with a generous amount of shredded carrots.
Add beans: Garbanzos and edamame are always a good bet. Recently I had some fresh black-eyed peas from the farmer’s market and they were great in a cold lunch salad. Lentils would be tasty too.
Add something for crunch: Celery, bell pepper, cucumber, apple, fennel, etc.
Add something for richness: Roasted cashews, olives, toasted pumpkin seeds, etc.
Survey the fridge or pantry: I look for any other tasty ingredients I have on hand. Leftovers, such as roasted veggies, meat, tofu or tempeh make great additions. Hearts of palm and artichoke hearts are pantry staples that make frequent appearances in my lunches.
Add a punch of flavor: Green onions, fresh parsley, capers, etc.
Add a little dressing: A drizzle of sherry vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil; ume plum vinegar and toasted sesame oil; a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange.
This recent lunch, pictured above, was a salad composed of carrots, broccoli slaw, edamame, bell pepper and roasted cashews. I was pretty darn excited about it and it didn’t disappoint.
Straight from our in-store solutions cards, here are a few more fresh ideas to toss around the next time you seek salad solutions that don’t involve greens:
Pasta & Beans
Buon Italiano: penne, cannellini beans, chopped roasted red peppers, chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice
So Southwest: elbow macaroni, black beans, corn kernels, shredded carrots and ranch dressing (with a sprinkle of chili powder for a kick)
Gone Greek: whole wheat fusilli, garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, dill and red wine vinaigrette
Country Club: bulgur, chopped hard-boiled eggs, crumbled bacon, celery and a touch of light mayonnaise
Hearty Harvest: brown rice, diced chicken, pears, raspberries, pistachios and Greek yogurt
Amazing Antipasto: quinoa, halved grape tomatoes, chopped black olives and diced salami tossed with red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil
I think greens are great but as you can see, they don’t always need to be the star when it comes to salads.
Do you have a favorite lunchtime salad combination? I’d love to hear about it.