It's Lunch Week at The Kitchn, which means that salads are the star. Oh wait, what's that? Salads are your lunch of last resort? You'd prefer a good grilled cheese? Well, perhaps you're not eating a swanky enough salad to keep you interested. There's nothing so satisfying as a hearty salad chock-full of intriguing bits of nuts, fruit, cheese, and perhaps a seductive handful of bacon.
But putting together a complex and satisfying salad can feel daunting on a Tuesday morning. That's why you need to understand the concept of Salad Swag. Let me introduce you to my favorite way to ensure I eat a good lunch. I'll even give you three flavors — The Frenchie Lentil, The Bleu Apple, and (my favorite) The Hawaiian.
Salad Swag: The Basics
Salad Swag is my own fancy way of describing all the good stuff that goes into a great salad. You need greens — yeah, yeah — and maybe some dressing. But don't stop there: what makes a salad really tasty? It's everything else: the half cup of quinoa, the grapefruit segments, the pistachios.
But these aren't things that you prepare in the mornings — unless you have a lot more time than I do! Salad Swag is something to make ahead and store in the refrigerator at home or work.
Usually the things that make up Salad Swag — dried fruit, grains, nuts — jostle peaceably together in one container, but they might weigh down a salad or get mushy if you toss them with the greens too far ahead of time. And forget about adding dressing; we all know that dressing goes on at the last possible moment.
So when I am thinking about my lunches for the week, if I am in a salad mood, I think of preparing my salad in three parts:
- Greens - I wash, dry, and prep greens and put them in the fridge.
- Dressing - Make a jar of dressing and stash it away.
- Salad Swag - Then choose your Swag and get busy!
When I'm ready for my salad I toss a handful of greens with a scoop of Salad Swag in a big bowl with a drizzle of dressing. Easy-peasy. You could leave all these fixings at work, if there is a shared refrigerator, or pack those three elements in your lunchbox.
Before we get down to business with my three favorite Salad Swags, a note on containers. I use these BPA-free EasyLunchboxes, because they have dividers to keep fruit separate from the dressing and other Swag. But if you're more comfortable not using plastic, you could package the Swag in jars or even just stack your entire salad in a big jar. I like to mix mine fresh, which is why I don't do that, but hey, whatever gets you eating a snazzy salad.
Salad Swag #1: The Frenchie Lentil
This is a riff off my favorite lentil salad with some more flair. Lentils add a lot of body to this spicy green salad; it'll keep you full all afternoon. A pear adds sweetness, and feta and hazelnuts really make this swanky.
- French lentils, cooked
- Hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- Pear, chopped and submerged in water (drain before using)
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Balsamic vinaigrette
- It's best to store the pear in a little bit of water, to keep it from browning and turning mushy. (See more details in this post: The Best Way to Keep Chopped Fruit from Turning Brown)
- When I'm in a big rush I just grab a packet of cooked lentils from Trader Joe's.
Salad Swag #2: The Bleu Apple
This was the salad that introduced me to the idea of Salad Swag. I loved the barley with the apples and blue cheese, so I made enough to last me all week. It's one of the most satisfying salads i know how to make.
- Apple, chopped and submerged in water (drain before using)
- Blue cheese crumbles
- Pearl barley, cooked
- Chicken breast, grilled or sautéed
- Baby spinach
- Lemon vinaigrette
- It's best to store the apple in a little bit of water, to keep it from browning and turning mushy. (See more details in this post: The Best Way to Keep Chopped Fruit from Turning Brown)
Salad Swag #3: The Hawaiian
Inspired by my favorite pizza with its crispy bits of bacon and juicy pineapple, this salad throws together similar flavors with hearty kale, protein-rich chickpeas, and tangy homemade ranch dressing.
- Fresh pineapple chunks
- Roasted almonds
- Chickpeas (canned or fresh-cooked, drained)
- Cooked bacon
- Baby kale
- Ranch dressing
- It's fine to store everything but the kale and the dressing together in one container; the pineapple doesn't make everything too juicy.
All right — your turn. Do you do Salad Swag? What's your favorite combination of goodies?