Like most people, sandwiches were my lunchtime standby when I was growing up. Peanut butter and jelly. Turkey with mustard and lettuce. Tuna salad.
In about third grade our family made the transition from white bread to wheat, and I whined as much as I did during our transition from 2% milk to skim milk. At the end of my high school years, my parents made another transition: salads for lunch instead of sandwiches. I still took sandwiches to school for lunch, but on the weekends and summer break I joined them for salads.
The salad transition was hot on the heels of the demonization of bread, and we were doing our part to avoid “bad carbs.” While we’re more lenient now with our carb consumption, the salad transition was positive because it established in us the habit of eating more vegetables. Unless I make an effort to eat vegetables at lunchtime, my daily veggie quota is often relegated to only a couple servings at dinnertime, and that does not add up to the 5 servings of veggies I try to eat every day.
Thus, most days I eat a salad for lunch. If eating a salad every day sounds boring, think again: it affords just as much versatility as a sandwich because the toppings for your salad are limitless. And if it sounds like too much work, all it takes is a little planning and one secret tool: the salad spinner.
A salad spinner solves the quandary of how to dry and store freshly washed lettuce. Here’s how it works: slice or tear your lettuce into a large bowl or clean sink and fill with cold water. Let the lettuce soak for 5 minutes, occasionally swirling to remove any dirt from the lettuce. Lift the greens out of the water, place in the salad spinner and spin. Pour out the water from the bottom of the spinner and store the lettuce in the salad spinner in the fridge, which will keep the leaves fresh and crisp.
With clean lettuce in your salad spinner, all you need are salad toppings. Leftovers from last night’s dinner make a quick, easy topping. Another way to conquer salad prep time is to prepare a large batch of a topping to use throughout the week, such as this Lemon Mint Tabbouleh.
Lemon Mint Tabbouleh
If you don’t have any bulgur on hand, you could substitute quinoa or whole wheat cous cous. This is easy to mix up the night before and doesn’t require any cooking (only soak the bulgur in hot water for 15 minutes).
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup bulgur
1 cup boiling water
1 cup chopped seeded plum tomatoes
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 large green onions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Whisk oil, lemon juice and garlic in small bowl until combined; set aside. Place bulgur in large bowl. Mix in 1 cup boiling water. Let stand until bulgur is tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, parsley, green onions and mint. Add dressing; toss to blend. Season tabbouleh to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at least 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.