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: Toss that salad in a big bowl -- you won't know what hit you.
Lunch salads seem like a great idea. They're easy to pack, light enough to prevent that afternoon slump, and healthy (well, most of the time). But it’s easy for a salad to go wrong, too -- with too little dressing, you end up with a pile of bland greens; too much, and you have salad soup. Moreover, salads can be hard to toss properly, difficult to eat while working, and messy. Who wants to end up with greens in their teeth and oil stains on their clothes?
More: Make better salads -- without a recipe.
Luckily, there’s a way to make your office salads far more enjoyable. I avoid a big mess by making my salads in large mixing bowls. I first picked up this tip while working at a restaurant, where all of the salads are mixed in big metal bowls before being plated. The size of the bowl allows you to toss the salad well so that each bite is thoroughly coated with dressing. It also helps distribute all of the ingredients evenly, so you don’t end up with a clump of cucumbers at the bottom of your salad. It's fun, too -- you can even use your hands to mix it all up!
Here's how to make the perfect office salad:
Start with your greens. I’m especially fond of escarole and soft butter lettuce, but anything will work here. Not into lettuce? Just skip it and focus on your other ingredients.
Toss in some other vegetables. I like to include something with crunch, like radishes, cucumbers, or fennel. If your fridge is looking pretty bare, grated raw carrots or beets can go a long way. Don’t have too many veggies? Fruit can be a great addition to salads -- especially peaches and plums in the summer and apples or pears in the winter.
- Add some substance. A meal of just vegetables will leave you hangry, which is never pretty. To add richness, I toss in cheese, avocados, chopped nuts, or seeds. Chickpeas and other beans also add nice heft to salads.
Pour on the dressing. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just drizzle olive oil and some good vinegar over the salad and hope that I get the ratio right. If you’re not confident with your guessing skills, I’d recommend mixing the dressing in a small bowl instead.
Making dressing is a great way to use up little leftovers, too. Last night’s pesto easily becomes a vinaigrette -- you can even sneak in some spices (za'atar and smoked paprika are my favorites).
- Get tossing. Grab two big spoons (or your hands) and start mixing the salad. Once your salad looks dressed, taste a bite. Too oily? Add more vinegar or lemon. Too dry? Add more dressing. If you keep a bottle of good olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper at your desk, it’s easy to correct.
Once your salad is perfect, eat it straight out of the bowl. It will be much more satisfying than that flimsy plastic container.
Tell us: What salad stops you from being hangry?
Photos by James Ransom