The Secret to a Great Salad

October 14, 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: Liven up leftover odds and ends with a flavor-packed dressing -- and say hello to a lunch salad you can actually get excited about.

Vegan Pesto

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When lunchtime rolls around, our editors' favorite thing to do is to all pitch in and make a big salad -- especially these days, when fall cakes, pies, and cookies are always within grabbing distance of our desks, each with a Post-it note attached saying "Eat Me!" 

Our salads typically consist of a hodgepodge of vegetables that we've cobbled together from the crisper drawers of our own fridges. If we have a leftover wedge of cheese, cooked grains, or wilting herbs, we'll bring those in, too. But when we start feeling kale salad fatigue, or we struggle to find the inspiration needed to turn our odds and ends into something exciting, we always turn to strong, flavorful dressings.


Two team lunches of late: Lentil salad paired with a chickpea-roasted broccoli-romesco mix; boiled-then-broiled wax beans and roasted delicata squash tossed with a "knife pesto."

A good dressing can single-handedly save your salad. And while we love a simple vinaigrette, our favorites are flavor-packed and hearty enough to turn a salad into a full-on meal. Turn your less-than-perfect herbs into a quick knife pesto (which is what we've come to call the herby dressing in this recipe); it's great tossed with roasted vegetables. If you happen to have some romesco sauce lying around (maybe after your latest burger craving), it's great spooned over roasted vegetables and cooked beans. And if all else fails, you can never go wrong with a dressing bulked up with tahini. Brightened with lemon juice or hit with soy sauce, it's great tossed with leafy greens or pretty much anything.

How do you liven up your lunch salad? Tell us in the comments, or show us on Instagram -- we've been using the #teamsalad hashtag.

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Sheela Prakash is a food and wine writer, recipe developer, and the author of Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year and Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food. Her writing and recipes can be found in numerous online and print publications, including Kitchn, Epicurious, Food52, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, The Splendid Table, Simply Recipes, Culture Cheese Magazine, Clean Plates, and Slow Food USA. She received her master's degree from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, holds Level 2 and Level 3 Awards in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), graduated from New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, and is also a Registered Dietitian.

1 Comment

AntoniaJames October 14, 2014
For a change from my usual vinaigrette, I've been using this, especially with salad with quinoa: Greek yogurt, roasted tahini, lots of lemon juice, a generous drizzle of honey, a glug of olive oil, salt and lots of freshly ground pepper; with a touch of spice and/or dukkah, depending on what's been done to the cooked vegetables (leftovers or pre-cooked over the weekend for this purpose) involved. ;o)