Blueprint's healthy paint-by-number approach to Build a Better Salad, in their May/June issue, grabbed us right away. We wondered why Blueprint suggested sardines in salad and were shocked to see a Martha Stewart magazine recommend a store bought dressing. We also hoped they could help us find a way to take salad for a work lunch.
We emailed our questions to Elizabeth Graves, Blueprint's beauty, health and fitness editor. Check our our Q and A with Elizabeth (she told me to "give sardines a chance") plus Blueprint's recipe for walnut salad dressing after the jump.
Apartment Therapy: We hear from many people who want to take green salads with them for lunch. Do you have suggestions on how to pack a salad and bring it to work?
Blueprint's Elizabeth Graves: A lot of us here at Blueprint bring salads to work several times a week. It's easy, a great personal health initiative, and cost effective too. Several of us had realized we were becoming way too fond of buying delicious, yet pricey, salads from a favorite cafe every single day. Bringing one to work makes sense.
One key to taking a salad to work is having the right containers. Anna Kovel, the food editor who collaborated on this story with me, suggests a small sealable plastic container for holding your dressing and another shallow square or rectangular plastic container for your greens and ingredients (for obvious reasons, you don't want to toss your salad with dressing until you're ready to eat it). The salad container should be big enough to allow your greens and ingredients some room -- you don't want to pack it too tightly or it will be difficult to toss and difficult to eat.
And delicate lettuces will bruise if they're smashed around. Glad makes disposable ones that are perfectly fine, as does Tupperware. Our home editor, Page Marchese Norman is particularly fond of the Telfresh containers from the Container Store for her salads. They satisfy our Blueprint form and function requirements.
You also want to make sure your greens are dry before packing them so that they will go the distance until lunch. On that tip, choose ingredients that hold up for a few hours in the fridge and "get along" with other ingredients (see the story for nice flavor combinations).
Romaine keeps its crunch, for example, as do red peppers. Beans and feta cheeses are also good portable ingredients. Delicate lettuces with super-wet fruits, like mangos or cut strawberries, on the other hand, often turn to mush over several hours. Those pairings, while delicious and nutritious, are best made and eaten right away.
AT: I was surprised to see you suggest sardines -- along with wild salmon -- as a smart protein source, high in omega 3s. I have to admit I'm having a hard time thinking about sardines in a salad, but I'll give it a try. Is there a particular brand or type of sardine to look for in the grocery store?
EG: As was I! Before I tried sardines, I still had that child-like aversion them. So when we were deciding upon the ingredients for this story, I admit, I was reluctant to shoot it.
But Anna, Page (the stylist on the story), and Cybele Grandjean (the art director), implored me to give sardines a chance. They love those little fish. From a health perspective, I knew sardines were unbeatable. They are packed with protein, calcium, omega-3s, and since they are small and low on the food chain, they're low in mercury, too. Likewise, wild salmon, though bigger, has a short lifespan so it's also low in mercury, too, and high in omega-3s.
For sardine beginners, Anna suggests trying Crown Prince Brisling Sardines. These are smaller sardines and they're packed in pure, heart-friendly olive oil. The ones packed in water tend to be mushier, which is sure to scare off first-timers. In addition to the salad combinations shown in the story, Anna suggests pairing a sardines savory richness with other strong flavors, such as peppery arugula, shallots or red onions, olives, or anything you'd see in a nicoise salad.
AT: The walnut dressing you suggest in the article looks great. I'm going to pick up some walnuts and give it a try. But, I was interested to see that the article suggests Jo's Japanese Miso Dressing, a store bought dressing, for your Bright and Sweet salad. So some store bought salad dressing are okay, even for Martha Stewart? Any brands you recommend?
EG: The food department did a rather large tasting of the dressings on the market, and Jo's faired the best. There are some great tasting store bought dressings out there.
The problem is most dressings are packed with sugar and not-so-great ingredients. And labels often give you the impression that the salad dressing is this farm-fresh bottle of wholesomeness, but in reality, it's far from that. In general, it is best to make your own. They are so good that way, and you have complete control of the ingredients you're putting in your body. Ann's Walnut dressing is wonderful, really versatile (it tastes great on most greens), and it has the health benefits of both the walnuts and walnut oil.
Walnut Dressing - as featured in Blueprint, May/June issue, pg. 104
Makes 1 1/2 cups
In a food processor, blend 1/2 cup walnut halves and 1/2 peeled garlic clove to a coarse paste. Add 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar; pulse to combine. With machine running, slowly add 1/2 cup walnut oil and 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to emulsify. Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.