I need salad PROTIPs
January 2, 2013 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Salads. I want to eat more salads, and I don't want to pay 6+ bucks a day to do it, but I need your help. I need tips & tricks on creating, transporting and eating salad and salad dressings. Are you a bad enough dude to help me eat salad? Special snowflake deets inside.

So, here's the rub: All last semester I ate salads at lunch everyday. I love salad! But it's killing my wallet- I'm dropping 6 bucks a day on salad over here. I'd like to start making and bringing my own, but I've got a couple roadblocks

1- I need to be able to prepare in advance and tupperware this sucker. I don't mind having to use multiple 'wares for the task.

2-I don't drown my salad in dressing, but I do think it seals the deal. What's the best salad dressing you know how to make?

3- I only get to grocery shop once, maybe twice a week. What can I get that'll last that long?

I'm totally willing to consider salads that aren't green (i.e., white bean) if that helps with with #3. I'm really looking for salad PROTIPs. I'm also a handy fella in the kitchen, so things that might be "difficult" should be no sweat
posted by GilloD to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 158 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe it seems obvious, but it was a revelation to me when I realized I could just keep a thing of dressing-- homemade or storebought-- in the fridge at school! So yeah, that. Totally takes out the big dressing logistical problem.
posted by threeants at 10:16 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have this thread bookmarked because it has some awesome salad suggestions.
posted by randomnity at 10:17 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The salad-in-a-jar system has changed my lunch-packing life. Basically, you want to pack your salad, with dressing, upside down so the dressing is soaking into the heartier parts of your salad rather than your delicate greens. Then it can easily last unrefridgerated all day, and that site says should be ok for multiple days. Jar not necessary -- works just fine with tupperware.
posted by EmilyFlew at 10:18 AM on January 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

Oh, the other thing that revolutionized my salad routine was buying a salad spinner. They're not that expensive, and getting one will quickly pay for itself. Heads of lettuce-- which kind of necessitate a salad spinner for time-conscious washing-- are not only way more economical than bagged greens, but they taste much, much fresher. After cutting your own shreds of crispy lettuce off a head, it's hard to go back to the flaccid bagged stuff.
posted by threeants at 10:19 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

2-I don't drown my salad in dressing, but I do think it seals the deal. What's the best salad dressing you know how to make?

A little olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
posted by empath at 10:20 AM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've found that my greens last longer when I immediately wash and dry them after bringing them home from the store/market. Definitely use a salad spinner for this, but still put the leaves out on a towel to dry even more. The lack of excess moisture is key before packing them into a bag or container to put in the fridge. Assuming the lettuce is fresh, it should last a week if you do this.

When I didn't have access to a fridge, I carried a small bottle of vinagrette in my bag with my at school.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:26 AM on January 2, 2013

Black and Blum make a great salad transporter, complete with integrated pot for dressing,
posted by MuffinMan at 10:31 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tahini "Goddess" dressing.

I like the upside-down salad idea posted by EmilyFlew above. Greens coated in dressing don't keep well, so either do the suggested upside-down thing so the dressing is at the bottom with the heavier goodies for transport and storage, or transport the dressing in a separate container until ready to deploy.

I also agree with threeants that a salad spinner will be a boon to your salad aspirations. I'd advise you not to get an expensive one - they break pretty easily so be emotionally prepared to replace and move on as necessary.

If you like onions on your salad, rinse them in cold water and drain before putting on the salad (doesn't apply to scallions). This is supposed to make them less bitter.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:33 AM on January 2, 2013

I didn't realize how important *salt* can be for making salad taste good. It's probably best if, as with most dressings, you add it right before eating.

Also, I just discovered this book: Twelve Months of Monastery Salads. I haven't looked at it personally, but the approach sounds very helpful and there are, apparently, 200 recipes in there. The "salad basics" and example recipes that are available in preview are, alone, quite helpful, I think.
posted by amtho at 10:34 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with threeants that you need a salad spinner. Salad greens keep a lot longer if they don't have much water clinging to them.

How to make your lettuce last longer in the fridge, and also have it prepped and ready to go: Cut or tear the leaves to the desired size*. Immerse them in cold water (sink, basin, or salad spinner bowl). Swish, and let soak a few minutes while the water refreshes the leaves and any sand sinks to the bottom. Spin with salad spinner. If there's a lot of water, I dump it out of the spinner and spin again. Then put the lettuce in a plastic bag or other sealable container. Spread out a dry paper towel on the leaves, and then store the container with the towel on the bottom.

If you buy prepared greens in the market, they might be limp from dehydration. If you soak them in cold water, they'll get rehydrated and crisp.

*Some people will tell you that the lettuce will turn brown if you cut it with a knife or scissors, but that's not true.
posted by wryly at 10:34 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I make something I call "pantry salad." It's all stuff that keeps for weeks/months so you can make it even if you don't have fresh produce.


Frozen corn
Frozen edamame
Black beans (canned)
Chopped canned tomato (high quality canned tomato is key for this recipe)
Dressing of your choice
Optional: chopped red onion

I do about equal parts of the first four ingredients. Once you mix it all together and dress it it only keeps for a day or two but it's so easy to make - just take your measuring cup (I use a 1/4 or 1/3 cup usually) and get one scoop of each ingredient.
posted by mskyle at 10:36 AM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

Romaine hearts (you can buy them three to a bag at my grocery store) are very durable in your fridge. I like the crunch too.
posted by willbaude at 10:37 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, small investment to suggest for you -- pick up a couple of Salad Blasters. I say this because I like enormous salads. If you like littler ones, one Blaster will do you.

Re dressing, I am still a fan of good quality virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dried herbs, maybe with some Dijon mustard thrown in, all shaken together in a bottle and kept in the fridge. I just put a couple of tablespoons of that into the top of the Blaster, where it waits to be added to the salad when I'm ready to eat it.

My routine: each evening, I dump some (washed, drained canned) beans into the bottom of one Blaster, top that with a tablespoon of ground flax seed, toss in about a half cup of chopped raw onion, and then add more chopped veggies like carrots, cucumber, zucchini squash, celery, cauliflower -- whatever floats your boat.

In the second Blaster, I put the salad dressing in the lid, then put some halved cherry tomatoes in the bottom, topping those with lots and lots of greens.

The Blasters go in the fridge. I snag them in the AM. At work, at lunchtime, I dress the salad by pushing the lid on the second Blaster (with the greens and tomato inside) and shaking hard, then dump the contents onto a plate. Then I dump the contents of the other Blaster (with the beans etc. inside) on top of that. Voila, dressed salad topped with beans.
posted by bearwife at 10:37 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

My favourite non-salad salad will keep for 3+ days in the fridge. Chop up tri-colour bell peppers, tomato, red onion, and green olives (preferably marinated with garlic), and add good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When you grab your portion for the day, add chopped or crumbled feta cheese (you can add the cheese when you first make the salad, but I think it tastes better with fresh cheese).
posted by neushoorn at 10:38 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Holy crap, how appropriate. I am eating a salad that I brought to work today, after a talk with myself last weekend about how I was 1) eating crap for lunch, 2) not getting enough veggies in my diet, and 3) spending way the hell too much money eating lunch out every day.

So I went to Costco and got myself one of those tubs of pre-washed greens, a package of pre-cooked and sliced grilled chicken strips, and a tub of shaved parm. I have this lamentably named tupperware thing.

So here's what I'm doing every morning:

1) Throw a pile of greens into the tupperware, shake a bit of salt in there, crack a bit of pepper, toss in a bit of cheese. Put the lid on the tupperware and shake.

2) Fill up one of the smaller inner containers with grilled chicken.

3) Put enough dressing in the other smaller inner container to cover the salad.

4) Assemble the container (requires significant smooshing of the greens, but since they're dry they bounce right back).

This takes me all of 5 minutes to do. Actually, maybe a bit less.

At work, I just assemble it. Nothing is wilty and gross because the chicken and dressing is kept separate.

This produces a really tasty salad, and takes almost no time. I realize buying pre-cooked chicken is kind of silly, but holy crap it saves a lot of time.

This works out to about $2/salad max. Probably closer to $1.75.
posted by phunniemee at 10:38 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Pizzeria Pagliacci in Seattle has a salad I loved when I lived there, called the Pagliaccio. It's green leaf lettuce, garbanzo beans, finely chopped red bell pepper, thin-sliced red onion and chopped salami, topped with a dijon vinaigrette. I was never able to duplicate the dressing, but it was one of my favorite salads ever.

A place in my college town had one which I think they called Sunomono. Apparently that's a pretty loose appellation. Their version was simply shredded green cabbage with a dressing of rice vinegar and sesame oil. It was definitely more of a side salad than a meal salad, but some of the results at that search link look more hearty. When I make it I usually add fresh ginger and some citrus juice, like the squeezings of a mandarin or some lime juice.

My mom used to make a salad we referred to as "that" salad that was endive, leeks, chopped walnuts, mandarin sections and celery seed in a honey-lemon dressing.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:48 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I chop enough salad components for the week on Sunday and put them in individual containers in the fridge. I also make vinaigrette and keep it in a small mason jar. Each morning, I throw about two handfuls of greens (baby spinach, usually) and a bit of each other component (peppers, chickpeas, cheese, onions, cherry tomatoes etc.) into my lunch-sized tupperware, and some of the dressing in a tiny, condiment-sized container. Lunch is ready in about 2 minutes!

Necessitates many tupperware containers, but it has been my most successful approach to forcing myself to bring a lunch every day.
posted by torisaur at 10:53 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kind of a small tip, but if you can stash a bottle of good balsamic vinegar and one of oil at your work's fridge (or at your desk!) you can easily dress salads on the go. If you want super fancy, go for a pepper grinder and a lemon or two in the fridge-- that way, even if you just have time to grab a bag of pre-washed arugula or whatever, you can still make a side salad or two.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:00 AM on January 2, 2013

Protip 1: Entree salads need to contain enough fat and protein to keep you sated until dinnertime.

Good sources of fat: avocado, seeds/nuts, whole milk cheese, and full fat dressings (olive oil is a nice healthy fat, oil/balsamic makes a nice basic dressing, though personally I prefer bleu cheese).

Good sources of protein: hard-boiled egg, beans, bite-sized portions of whatever protein you had for dinner last night (chicken, steak, salmon, tofu), nuts/seeds, cheese.

Protip 2: Sometimes a little bit of fruit will take a salad from meh to wow. Apple, watermelon, mango, berries, orange, grapes, whatever floats your boat.

Protip 3: Salads need to be BIG, because a salad that is mostly greens/veg is not that calorific. I like big yogurt tubs as salad containers, myself.

Protip 4
: Pack your salad so the heavy stuff is on the bottom, and then put your greens on top, so they don't get crushed.

I'm on the fence about when to dress. Sometimes a salad that has marinated for a few hours in its dressing tastes more flavorful to me, but when I can, I do just dress my salad right before eating.

If you are a Costco shopper, I found that one of those big tubs of Earthbound Farm spring mix is about right for a week's worth of entree-size salads. I am lazy and it is so much easier to just drop a few handfuls of lettuce in the tub than to wash and chop.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:02 AM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

I asked this question when I was eating salads quite regularly. Tons of fantastic suggestions, helped alot and I still use a lot of the ingredient suggestions when I make salads.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:08 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

For #3 I recommend a non-conventional salad... I buy beans... black beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, and green beans from the goya section. Drain liquid, add fresh minced garlic, onion, squeeze some lemon on it, add some cilantro, salt pepper, oil and vinegar. It gets better as the week goes on.

The great part about it is you can switch it up to make different styles, for example add some chopped red pepper and feta, get rid of the cilantro and it's more mediterraneanish
posted by OuttaHere at 11:27 AM on January 2, 2013

Oh yeah, and similar to mskyle's salad above, my favorite non-green pseudo-Mexican salad (aka burrito without the tortilla) which can be eaten hot, warm, or cold:

1 can corn
1-2 cans black beans
4-5 tbsp (ish) fresh pico de gallo
1 chopped avocado
1/4 cup (ish) Mexican blend shredded cheese
1-2 tbsp (ish) sour cream (added after heating if you're doing hot)
optional: tsp (ish) minced garlic

Usually I make this for dinner, heating the corn and black beans then mixing everything else in, then have the leftovers cold for lunch the next day. Everything is (ish) because I do not actually measure anything, I just add until it seems to be the right ratio.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:34 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

About packing your salad: I highly recommend Lock&Lock containers, which are trustworthy enough to toss directly into my backpack with my computer -- they're less breakable and more leakproof than Mason jars. Here are two that might be about the right size: one with little dividers inside, one without. I like to keep the dressing in a tiny jar or bento cup, which tucks right inside my Lock&Lock. If you search for "bento dressing" you can find all manner of tiny little cups and bottles meant to fit in a lunch kit. I like this Pack-It lunchbag, which you put in the freezer overnight and holds the cold the next day. It's not as bulky as some lunch containers I've seen, and it keeps my salads nice and crisp. If your lunch kit doesn't have an icepack, you can tuck a sheet of reusable ice packs directly in with the salad.

As for what goes into the salad ... I often like to chop a bunch of things all at once, leave them in separate jars in my fridge, and then assemble as I please. Usually I have four or five of the items listed below in my fridge at any given time, picked from different categories, varied depending on what is cheap/seasonal. Here are some things that last a while in the fridge, even when pre-chopped:

- Sturdy veggies. Pre-cook if necessary, chop into a dice. Examples: cooked beets, bell peppers, radishes, celery, carrots, jicama, diced roasted butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, onions, etc.
- Legumes. Don't over-cook 'em -- they should still be firm. You can also marinate them for more flavor. Examples: lentils, white beans, black beans, chickpeas, snap peas (raw), green beans (raw), etc.
- Sturdy greens. Examples: swiss chard, kale (shred it into thin strips and marinate it in a salted/acidic dressing overnight to tenderize it), shredded cabbage, etc.
- Protein. Examples: chicken (bake in bulk; tenderloins are cheaper than breasts and just as lean), tofu kan, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, cheese, etc.
- Dried fruit. Examples: raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dried apple, etc.
- Grains & noodles. Examples: bulgar wheat, quinoa, wheat berries, pasta bow-ties, soba noodles, etc.
- Preserved things: olives, sun-dried tomato slices, marinated mushrooms, capers, etc.

Certain things are more delicate but totally worth it on occasion. Avocados can be diced then lightly tossed in lemon or lime juice to last a day without browning; apple slices can be treated the same way. Blueberries and raspberries are DELICIOUS in-season, and you'll probably eat them so fast that they won't have a chance to spoil. Delicate leafy greens last longer if they're washed and thoroughly dried in a salad spinner. Fresh basil is truly tasty on Mediterranean-type salads.
posted by ourobouros at 12:07 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some outrageously bastardized salad combos I love:

- "Mexican": Greens, shredded carrot, chopped bell pepper, celery, a scoop of ground beef browned with 'taco seasoning', shredded cheese, pico de gallo, optional dollop of sour cream, secret ingredient: drizzle red wine vinegar

- "Italian": Greens, strips of good cured meats (prosciutto, coppa, sopressata, etc), cubes of provolone, chopped sundried tomatoes, pepperoncini, oil and vinegar, salt and pepper

- "Big Mac": Greens, chopped tomatoes and onions (this can be your pico de gallo minus spices), shredded cheese, a scoop of ground beef browned with a little ketchup, a dressing made of oil, vinegar, mayo, and a squirt of mustard

- "The Paleo": Greens, crumbled bacon, cubes of turkey or chicken, shredded carrot, sliced avocado, diced green apple, walnuts, oil and lemon juice

- "Chicken Salad Salad": Your favorite chicken salad (classic with mayo, or curried with almonds and grapes perhaps?) on a bed of greens, with a generous glug of balsamic vinagrette

- "The Greek": Greens, gyro meat, celery, shredded carrot, sliced radish, diced onions, homemade tzatziki (greek yogurt with cucumber, garlic, and lemon juice), oil and red wine vinegar

These aren't so smart or sophisticated, but they are combos that I personally packed and prepared for years and years. Some prep tips for the ingredients I've mentioned:

- If you can resign yourself to using the same protein for the whole week, you'll have an easier time. I'd do about 1.5 lb of ground beef on Sunday evening, for example, or roast up a few chicken legs and shred the meat up.

- Because you don't like to market that often, you might want to get in the habit of using aged cheeses and cured meats like salami that can keep for much longer so you can still get variety.

- Some things are worth paying for the prep. I always used bagged greens and pre-shredded carrots, because those went into all of my salads and I felt like having shredded carrot (instead of diced or whatever) was worth the extra money. It will probably be different things for YOU, but don't feel guilty paying someone else to do one little task if it makes a big difference on a daily basis.

- Know your limits on things that DO need to be prepped in the morning. I prepped the ingredients days in advance and usually assembled most of the salad the night before, but certain things always happened at the last minute: crumbled bacon (I'd have it for breakfast and reserve a few strips to crumble directly into my salad), diced apple, sliced avocado.
posted by telegraph at 12:12 PM on January 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

Traditional French vinaigrette is really easy and quick to make:

Peal some garlic. Dice. Place garlic on a clean piece of cloth, like a dish towel. Fold the towel over so the garlic is sandwiched between the top and bottom of the cloth. Smash the garlic with any convenient flattish heavy object. Combine olive oil and vinegar in a bowl (no precise measurements). Add smooshed garlic. Stir it up. VoilĂ , salad dressing! Tastes great on tossed salads, and much better for you than anything you can buy commercially.

If you're getting salads at a cafeteria-type place, you can probably get away with bringing your own home-made dressing and just paying for the vegetables. It should be quite a bit cheaper since they charge by weight.

For making salads, my only general advice would be to use spinach as base green rather than lettuce, because it's a lot tastier, combined with what ever else you like. If you bring salad from home, bring the salad and dressing in separate containers and only combine them when you're ready to eat.
posted by nangar at 12:13 PM on January 2, 2013

I always make my own salad dressing, and it's incredibly easy. My base is usually dijon mustard, crushed garlic, a bit of soy sauce, and random spices stirred together. I use either balsamic vinegar or lemon juice as my acid, stirred into the mustard/spice mixture, and then whisk in a very good extra virgin olive oil. There is almost always a little jar of this in my fridge, and I tend to use the old mixture as a base for the next one -- like a yeast starter. :)
posted by blurker at 12:20 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

My commute doesn't allow for keeping anything oriented upright so I store greens separately. Much tastier and no wilt worries. Dressing would be another separate container although if I have cheeses I don't normally use a dressing.
posted by shownomercy at 12:26 PM on January 2, 2013

For me the thing that goes bad the fastest is the lettuce. So maybe plan to have salads with lettuce at the beginning of the week (or right after grocery shopping) and at the end of the week without lettuce.

For dressing, I really like to just mix olive oil, balsamic, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. The dijon helps thicken it up so it reminds me more of "restaurant" dressing.

When I don't have lettuce I like to toss kidney beans, olives, tomatoes, cucumber chunks, maybe a little feta, and artichoke hearts with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar (and salt and pepper).

There are lots of different types of oils and vinegars out there, it's fun to experiment! My MIL got me this awesome basil-infused olive oil that was great in salads. Also she introduced me to white balsamic vinegar (you can get it at the grocery) which as a milder flavor than regular balsamic. If you live in a foodie-type city you might have a store dedicated to oils and vinegars, there was one in New Orleans called Vom Fass.
posted by radioamy at 1:53 PM on January 2, 2013

Great post--

Our everyday salad dressing is diced shallots, balsamic, olive oil, S&P and sometimes some dijon. Nut oils are good too (walnut and hazelnut, for example).

Definitely want to keep the dressing off "delicate greens" as someone put it, until you're ready to eat, but it sounds like you have that covered.

I like variations of North African salads--tuna, some hard boiled egg, and any combination of diced bell peppers, carrots, tomato, green/red onion, fresh herbs.

It's worth having chives, parsley, and or dill plus chervil if you're fancy, just to chop up on the salad. Cannot overstate how much chopped fresh herbs help a salad.
posted by SpicyMustard at 2:21 PM on January 2, 2013

I find that whole heads of lettuce keep longer than bags of baby greens, and romaine tends to keep the longest, but I also love baby spinach as a salad base. Definitely agree re: salad spinner making life easier - I use mine all the time.

My go-to dressing: mince a shallot, put it in a small jar (I use a half pint/jam sized jar). Pour in red wine vinegar to about an inch, add a large pinch of salt. Let sit while you prep other salad ingredients (not necessary if you're going to use it tomorrow, but for dinner in half an hour, a little marinating does a shallot some good). Grind in black pepper - I use a copious amount. Pour in good quality olive oil - about twice as much as the vinegar - using a jar means I can easily eyeball this. Add a dollop of dijon mustard - about a tablespoon? whole grain is nice if you have it. Put a lid on the jar, shake the crap out of it. Now here's the secret: don't taste the dressing on your finger or a spoon, dip a leaf of lettuce into it and taste it on that. If you happen into a slightly bitter lettuce, your dressing will want more salt. If your lettuce is mild you might want a gentler dressing, so add a little more oil. If it wants more tang, add more mustard or vinegar, and so on.
posted by hungrybruno at 2:35 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

My latest salad discovery: tossing sliced avocado + crumbled blue cheese into my usual (romaine, cherry tomatoes, pears, chickpeas, cucumber) created a yummy, creamy coating/dressing after a few hours of refrigeration. I usually dislike dressings, but this combo is perfect and I am addicted.
posted by bluestocking at 2:39 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I usually do salads for lunch once or twice a week. There is some really excellent advice in this thread -- am bookmarking it. My contributions:

#1 I found this blog post on "choose your own salad adventure" from Mark's Daily Apple to be really helpful in thinking about a salad in terms of greens, add-ins, proteins, oil, acids, and spices/herbs.

#2 Like a couple of people mentioned up thread, I try to combine the dressing with the greens as late as possible in the process. The "upside down" trick had never occurred to me; I'll usually either mix the oil/acid with the greens just before leaving for work or carry two containers: one for greens, and one for add-ins/protein combined with the salad dressing (or, a "dry" salad in one container and the dressing in a separate container).

#3 I usually cook my protein in batches once a week or so and freeze it in individual portions (chicken breasts, sausages, ground beef, whatever).
posted by kovacs at 6:35 PM on January 2, 2013

I just made this Roasted Broccoli with Smoked Paprika and Garlic Vinaigrette , and the dressing from this recipe is fantastic.
posted by Fig at 6:57 PM on January 2, 2013

I get those 3-packs of romaine hearts, and wash all 3 at the same time - usually when I am making my first salad with the new pack - the trick is to wash them while keeping the leaves attached to the stem - you can loosen the leaves and run the water down into the heart, then tip it upside down to let the water run back out again. a few leaves will fall off in the process, and those are the ones you use in the first salad. leave the remaining hearts upside down on your drying rack for an hour or so to dry, then put them in a bag and into the fridge. Keeping them attached to the stem will keep them fresh waaaaay longer than the pre-washed and chopped boxed of lettuce, and pre-washing them yourself means that making a salad before work takes just a few minutes.

chop off as much as you want for that day, starting at the tips, add a tomato, some cucumber and a liberal slop of tatziki and there's lunch.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:43 PM on January 2, 2013

I like to prep salad lunches on the weekend and end up with containers in the fridge as such:
  • Washed Greens: In a box from the store, or washed and stored a salad spinner.
  • Add-ons: These are salad ready chopped veggies, meat, cheese, beans, etc. I typically keep them in piles, all in one big rectangular container. Think of this as your artist's palate.
  • Dressing jar: Homemade or store bought.
In the morning toss your greens in your tupperware, "paint" on your add-ons, and load dressing into a separate container. This goes in your lunch bag with maybe a whole wheat pita or piece of fruit.

I like to think of having one or two special add-ons per week. Maybe a nice hunk of feta, an avocado, bacon. Something kindof fatty/naughty makes it less like depriving, more like a treat.

Also, try pickling a few extra veggies you might have around. Onions, green beans and radishes become awesome with red wine vinegar, salt, sugar and boiling water. Just seal it up in a jar and keep in the fridge. Taste after a week. Next try adding spices.

The best salad dressing I know is a knock-off from an excellent restaurant in Austin, Texas: Mother's Cafe's legendary Cashew-Tamari dressing.
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted cashews
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
Blend it all up. If you don't have a blender, I've had some success with using some finely chopped cashews, and a spoonful of cashew butter.

This might sound ridiculous but I like to think about color as I'm shopping for salads. Yeah, a red bell pepper might cost $.30 more than a green one, but it'll look prettier on your salad, and as a Thai cooking instructor told me, "you eat with your eyes first". If it's something that keeps you thinking "Salad for lunch again!" instead of "salad. for lunch. again." it probably was worth the thirty cents.

I've also learned a few tricks getting veggies to look prettier while prepping them: make carrot ribbons with a potato peeler, slice green onions on a diagonal to get pretty diamond shapes, bell pepper rings look like flower petals when arranged around the center, when slicing chicken breasts, cut straight down, then flatten and fan out the slices to have a pretty arch, an egg slicer might seem like a silly gadget, but it slices eggs perfectly, and so on. When you're doing it all at once, and assuming you're decently skilled with a kitchen knife, it doesn't take anymore time at all.
posted by fontophilic at 7:44 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to think of parsley as only a not-particularly-tasty garnish until I discovered tabbouleh. Tabbouleh keeps really, really well--if you can restrain yourself from scarfing it all down in one sitting (personally, I find that difficult). I make something approximating this recipe but use curly parsley instead of flat-leafed. Curly parsley doesn't wilt, even if you dress it ahead of time. You can add in the mint afterward if you think it might wilt, pre-dressed.

It is cheap and also healthy--parsley contains tons of vitamins C&A, and folic acid.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:05 AM on January 3, 2013

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