The Perfect Springtime Dish for Lunch in the Park

Kitchen Diary: Kate in New York City

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Breaking news: It’s sort of, almost, a little bit like springtime in New York City. For those of you keeping up, I’ve been jonesing for spring since oh, about two days after the groundhog either did or did not see that dang shadow. (Really, hasn’t it been way longer than six weeks?)

To soothe my winter-weary soul, I’ve been cheating on the cold weather and cooking up some of my springtime favorites a little early this year. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic when this past few weeks’ weather actually gave me the chance to tote lunch to the park not once, but twice! Not only is it such a spirit-lifter to chow down with the sun beating down on you, but it means I’ve rediscovered a whole new enthusiasm for lunch packing.

As I’m no longer a slave to delivery food eaten guiltily in the conference room of my workplace, this new warm weather has jazzed me up for packing lunch again. I’m always in search of flavorful lunches that are easy to whip up and that pack a serious gourmet punch.

Two of the biggest obstacles of course are ease and transportability. I’ve got a handy little lunch pot I love to use that’s pretty leak-proof, but I admit I get pretty perturbed at myself if I’m toting much more than that one item around the city when I leave work for the day. For that reason, I’ve been on the hunt for one-dish salads that feel rounded out like a meal without requiring lots of prep either beforehand or when I’m ready to skip off to the park for a quick al fresco bite.

Because one of my favorite tricks is turning dinner leftovers into an extra-fab lunch, I’ve been noshing on tons of warm salads in the evening that turn out to be just as delicious cold the next afternoon. One of my staples this week has been a sort of anything goes quinoa salad dressed with a light Dijon vinaigrette that’s versatile enough to play nicely with almost any ingredient hanging around in the fridge.

So far my favorite combination has been baby kale, cannellini, roasted red peppers, and a handful of toasted pine nuts. Besides the yum factor, it’s ridiculously easy: Make a ton of quinoa, pile it on top of the kale to make it wilt, toss with remaining ingredients and vinaigrette. In the evenings I top it with shaved parmesan and grilled chicken or a poached egg, but for lunch it’s just as delicious cold and as-is with a piece of fruit for dessert.

It’s almost becoming a sort of uniform for my lunch, but luckily it’s versatile enough that I’ll hopefully never get sick of it.

What’s your favorite salad or snack that’s good for a one-dish lunch?

(Image credits: Chris Barlow)