Airline food has never been anyone's favorite dining experience, but lately it's gotten downright ridiculous to have to eat bad food and pay for it, too. The upside is that so many people are now bringing homemade food on flights. This makes me happy not just because it's usually more healthy, but because it brings a sense of originality and creativity to what is otherwise a pretty cold and impersonal experience. I find myself peeking over rows of seats to see what people are eating.
There is a salad I make whenever I travel by air; it's almost always the same formula but never the same salad twice. It's meant to clear the refrigerator, but also has nutrition and flavor in mind.
I start with a few handfuls of greens that I know won't wilt into a mess by the time I sit down to eat. If you're not tired of it yet, I suggest kale. Then I add another vegetable, usually something I need to use up, like leftover broccoli, the second half of a bell pepper or an avocado, or the end of a bunch of carrots. I add some chunks of frozen fruit to keep the salad cool and also add some sweetness. Then I add a grain; if there is any leftover rice, I throw in a scoop or two. If not, I add quinoa, which cooks quickly. Then some seeds or nuts (think trail mix stuff) to add crunch and keep me interested. Finally, a simple dressing with lemon and olive oil. Salt and pepper, to taste.
I break all my usual rules and eat out of plastic; if I have a box from grocery store salad greens, I use that and transport it in a zippered gallon bag in case of leaks. Otherwise I put the salad straight into a plastic zippered bag and eat, with chopsticks or a plastic fork from the airport.
This might not be a salad you'd make when having your boss over to your house for dinner, but it's a good one to get you through a long journey through the air.
What's your go-to airplane meal?
Airplane Salad with Greens, Grains, and Seeds
4 to 5 ounces (about 3 cups) chopped sturdy greens like kale, spinach, or romaine hearts
1 cup leftover vegetables, like steamed broccoli, chopped avocado, chopped bell peppers, or diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped frozen fruit, like peaches, mango, berries
1/4 cup cooked and cooled grains, like brown rice, quinoa, barley
1/4 cup nuts, seeds, or raisins
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a portable, sealable container and shake to combine.
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)