Now that spring is in full swing, I have been making some adjustments to how I eat to suit the new warm temperatures (or sometimes warm) and take full advantage of all that is fresh and abundant. In the winter months, I really crave something hot at lunch and usually have a soup or heat up some leftover roasted veggies to have with a fried egg. In the warmer months, I will pack or fix myself a big salad for lunch each day. I never tire of salad (as long as I mix up the ingredients a bit), but I do tire of prepping and assembling them!
I have found that a once-weekly salad-prep hour really makes a huge difference. Having everything ready to throw in a bowl or lunchbox saves me from finding myself overindulging at the food carts or skipping a proper lunch altogether and snacking my way through the day. I just finished my salad prep (along with some of my other weekly prep—I’ve visited this whole idea before), and thought I’d share some of my salad-specific tips with you.
Lettuces/greens: This is my biggest stumbling block to making myself a salad—fresh, dry greens. So much easier to do it all at once! I rinse my greens thoroughly (if they are looking limp, I will immerse them in some ice water), and give them a good spin in a salad spinner. Then I lay them out to completely dry before I pack them in sealed bags. They stay fresh all week!
Veggies: I find that, for the most part, I prefer to chop my vegetables up the day I eat them, but I do make sure I have cleaned and peeled and prepped produce as much as possible. I like grated beets and carrots, so sometimes I will do a big batch of those in the food processor and store them in a sealed glass jar. Root vegetables might get diced and roasted to add cold.
Grains and legumes: It’s essential to cook these ahead of time! I love having cold farro, barley, wild rice or quinoa in my salads— just cook them in salted water and let them take on the flavors of the salad later. Lentils and beans can be made ahead as well. A favorite salad of mine is arugula with tiny french lentils and roasted sweet potato.
Nuts and seeds: I make sure I have a stash of these in the pantry, roasted or toasted and ready to toss on top. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are a favorite of mine along with almonds and hazelnuts.
Protein: I don’t worry too much about having protein in my salad, but I do usually hard boil some eggs and set aside some grilled fish or roasted chicken to add to my lunch. Crumbled feta or goat cheese is great to have on hand too.
Dressings: Vinaigrettes are quick to put together to suit your own tastes. The general rule is three parts oil to one part vinegar. I find I like things a bit more acidic, so I add lemon juice as well (or use all lemon and no vinegar). Other additions are mustard, honey or maple syrup to sweeten, shallots or fresh herbs to add a bite, lemon zest for zing, and good course salt and fresh ground pepper. Making dressing is a great way to experiment and develop your palate, adding and tasting as you go along as you learn to find that right flavor balance. This week I had chive blossoms in the garden, so I made chive blossom vinegar (I just placed some clean blossoms in a sterilized jar and covered them with white vinegar that I had heated to just before boiling). The vinegar will sit for a week or two in a dark place until it’s fully ready, but I dipped into it a little early for this week’s vinaigrette. If I’m in the mood for a creamy dressing, I will mix lemon with yogurt and fresh herbs (it’s great on sandwiches too).