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DIY Salad Bars at Home

July 22, 2014

As a defiant response to Sad Desk Lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty. Each week, we'll be sharing our happiest desk lunches -- and we want to see yours, too.

Today: Be the change you wish to see in salad bars.

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The salad bar, as many of us know it, is a behemoth native to college cafeterias and all-you-can-eat buffets. Its fluorescent lighting beats down on hotel pans filled with iceberg lettuce that wilts before your eyes, grated carrots that are a little too dry, canned beans that are a little too wet. The hard-boiled eggs have greying yolks and the crumbled feta is perpetually picked over. It’s a bleak place for eating your greens.

More: It's easy to make perfect hard-boiled eggs, and salad is just the beginning of their many uses.

But at its core, this vegetable free-for-all represents democracy and versatility, and so we must be the change we wish to see in salad bars by creating our own at home. Doing so is not only an efficient way to use up the bits and bobs that are kicking around in your crisper, but it's also as simple as throwing leftovers into a bowl -- except now you have the freedom to switch things up every day.

So here’s a list of things to kick off your own DIY salad bar. Prep a bunch of ingredients on Sunday night, pack them up separately, and mix them and match them all week long. Go ahead, unleash your inner vegetable mixologist -- isn't that what a salad bar should be all about?

Wash and chop your greens. If you’re fancy, make a mix: I like radicchio, kale, green leaf lettuce, and flat-leaf parsley. Line a big bowl or container with a paper towel, then pack the greens in loose tufts. Top with another paper towel and cover.

Gather the vegetablesRoastedgrilled, and blanched vegetables all keep and travel well. You shouldn’t grate or slice any vegetables you plan to eat raw since they’ll dry out or get brown, but do wash them well so they’re extra easy to chop-chop-chop before you leave in the morning.

Make a pot of grains and/or beans. Season them well, but bear in mind that the simpler they are, the more versatile they’ll be.

Cook your protein of choice, whether it be meat or seafood, hard-boiled eggs or tofu. (Or snag some prosciutto or salami that someone else has already cured for you.)

Get good cheese -- you deserve it. Grate or slice it en masse and store it in a bag or container; the less air, the better. (Don't forget to wrap the rest of the block well so you can come back to it next week!)

Hoard precious flavor dynamos (pickles, olives, capers, the like). At all times.

Get your crunch factors ready to go. Toast and chop nuts and seeds; grate and toast your breadcrumbs. Let them cool completely, then keep them tightly sealed at room temperature to keep them crunchy all week.

Obviously, you need dressing. Make a big jar of it and leave it at the office for deskside tossing.

What's your favorite thing to toss into salad? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Catherine Lamb
    Catherine Lamb
  • Rémy Robert
    Rémy Robert
Fond of large dogs, tiny houses, pungent cheese, and dessert for dinner (or breakfast).


Catherine L. July 22, 2014
This is amazing! I want to make a salad bar with you, Rémy.
Rémy R. July 22, 2014
All day everyday! We need to make it happen :)