In love a nice, big salad at lunch. And now that I'm back in the office, I need it to be portable. I found this great bowl with a bamboo cover at Target and I'm obsessed with it. It holds just the right amount of salad, and is just deep enough for mixing it all together.
And I know we all talk about how a salad made by someone else is always more delicious than one you make yourself. But I am challenging that -ism by using the best ingredients in my own salads, and the results have been great.
As a base, I use a mix of hydroponically grown butter lettuce, and a spring mix or arugula.
In this salad, I added sections of fresh avocado, red onion slices, cannellini beans, sliced black olives, crumbled feta, and sliced breaded chicken tenderloins leftover from dinner the night before (I had to hide them to make sure they were still there when I packed my lunch in the morning!).
In the version on the right I've instead used beets, chickpeas, thinly sliced cucumbers, scallions and Kalamata olives.
What really mades this salad comes to life is fresh vinigrette. I based mine off of the recipe for Go-To Vinigrette from one of my favorite chefs, Giada De Laurentiis. Here is her recipe:
In a medium bowl whisk together the vinegar, Dijon, honey, garlic oil and salt until fully combine and emulsified. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Shake well before using.
Avocado toast has become my new favorite breakfast. Or lunch. It’s healthy, delicious, simple to make, and simple to dress up. This is a nutritious meal in under 5 minutes.
There is basic avocado toast. And then there all the ways you can personalize it. Much like tacos, the options are endless. I like to use various ingredients like microgreens, cherry tomatoes, bacon, jalapenos, chives, radishes, spinach, arugula, red pepper flakes, onions, salmon, goat cheese and dill in a variety of combinations. But you can really just use anything you have on hand.
Here's the process - it's super easy:
Step 1: Toast your bread. You can use any type of bread, and I prefer thick cut white bread. But crusty bread or whole grain can make it even healthier.
Step 2: Cut, scoop and mash the avocado in a small bowl. A fork works great for this.
Step 3: Add to the mash. For this, the basic mash, I suggest using a squirt of lime, salt and pepper, and maybe some cilantro. Mix it up well.
Step 4: Spread the mash on the toast. Give it another pinch of sea salt and Voila!
Step 5 is Optional: some people like to add egg to the top of the toast – sunny-side up, poached, or even hard boiled. This definitely helps to give you a bigger dose of protein to get through the morning.
Additional Flavor Option Ideas:
cheese and chives, salmon and dill, salmon and dill and goat cheese, pico de gallo, bacon and tomato, or bacon and tomato and lettuce.
Selecting your Avocados:
The key to great avocado toast is bring able to pick a great avocado.
It is hard to find them already ripe in the store, anyway. So I get them on the harder side and place them in a bowl on the countertop to ripen. You can tell when they are ready when they are slightly soft to the touch, and the nub where the stem was attached easily flips off with a fingertip.
A tomato just picked, fresh off the vine and warm from the summer is one of the high points of summer for me. And we have had an abundance of tomatoes this year! You may have seen my previous post about The Best Gazpacho Ever, which was a great way to enjoy the fresh abundance from the garden. But living in the South for the last 25 years, I have learned to appreciate the simple yumminess of a tomato sandwich.
Kate Williams with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article recently, “You say tomato… Three ways to improve upon the classic tomato sandwich.” So I tried out two of them in the Delaney Test Kitchen and I can’t pick which one is my favorite. If you try these, you’ll have to let me know which one you pick: the Improved Classic Tomato Sandwich, or the Heirloom Tomato Sandwich with Bacon Mayonnaise.
Thanks to this article, I also learned how to make a tomato sandwich that didn’t drip all over the place. The trick is to take 30 minutes to let them season. This process uses salt to remove excess water from the tomatoes, concentrating their flavor. Slice the tomato and lay tomato slices out on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or stack of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides and then just let them hang out while you put away dishes or kill time on social.
After about 30 minutes, you’ll see a pool of water below the tomatoes and a slick of water on top of them. Pat the slices dry, and then stack these flavor-packed tomatoes between mayonnaise-slicked slices of white bread. Big beefsteak tomatoes work great, but giant heirlooms work well too.
Improved Classic Tomato Sandwich
Heirloom Tomato Sandwich with Bacon Mayonnaise
· 2 slices bacon, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick strips
· 1/2 cup mayonnaise, such as Duke’s
· 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 2 large, ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
· 8 slices sourdough sandwich bread, such as Pepperidge Farm
1. Place the bacon in a small skillet with 1/4 cup of water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the water cooks off and the bacon has rendered its fat and turned very crisp, about 15 minutes. If necessary, reduce the heat to avoid scorching.
It is summer, and it is artichoke season. And I am always up for a new way to enjoy them.
Earlier this Spring, the LA Times had a series of great recipes, including one for Cold Artichoke Tea Sandwiches. They looked fantastic, so I had to give them a try in the Delaney Test Kitchen. I really love tea sandwiches – pimento cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad. I love them all. But this sounded like a great addition to that mix.
This recipe needs to be made, and then sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. So while I was making this for a fancy luncheon, I realized it could be made ahead of time for a perfect easy WFH (or now back at the office) lunch. The trick is to use fresh, soft bread so it won't dry out in the fridge.
Ironically, this recipe called for canned or jarred artichoke hearts, not fresh. So I will still have to try the recipe for Artichokes a la Baba Ghanouj that was also in the LA Times. For that one I’ll roast them at home, and it looks delicious. But we’ll try that one next weekend.
This recipe was really easy, and it would be easy to make it vegan just by switching out the mayo for vegan mayo. I also felt it needed a pinch more salt than what the recipe called for.
On another note, please notice the gorgeous plate this is plated on. This is from East Fork Pottery, based in Asheville, NC and they have an outpost here in Atlanta. Founded by Co-Founders Alex Matisse (grandson of the artist), Connie Matisse and John Vigeland, they design, manufacture and sell ceramic dishware with iron-rich clays dug from the American South East and colored with glazes they formulate and mix in-house. You may recognize their famous “The Mug”, since it has been featured in The New York Times and is difficult to keep in stock (search IG for #themug). And The Mug is really something else – it is the perfect mug, perfectly sized and shaped for your hand. I highly recommend it.
Cold Artichoke Tea Sandwiches
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 small or ½ large shallot, minced (¼ cup)
1 almond-sized garlic clove
8 ounces (drained weight) canned or jarred artichoke hearts, rinsed and well-drained
16 slices whole-wheat or white soft sandwich bread or pain de mie
Salty potato chips, for serving
1. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, parsley, dill, chives, salt, pepper, paprika and shallot. Using a microplane grater, grate the garlic into the mayonnaise mixture. Using a food processor or a knife, pulse to finely chop the artichoke hearts. Add the artichokes to the mayonnaise mixture and stir to combine.
2. Arrange 8 slices of bread on a work surface and divide the artichoke filling among them, about 3 to 4 tablespoons each. Spread the filling to within 1/4-inch of the edges of the bread. Top each with another slice of bread, then transfer to a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap or foil. Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to two days.
3. Use a serrated knife to remove the crusts from the sandwiches, then halve, either diagonally to make two triangles or into neat rectangles. Serve the sandwiches chilled, with potato chips.
A few years ago I tried my first egg salad sandwich. It was at Starbucks, and it turned out to be quite yummy. The secret ingredient was the tarragon that was mixed in.
I love tarragon. I always keep some on hand so that I can add it to a charcuterie plate – it’s a nice addition that I picked up from a charcuterie plate that we had in Paris. Great trip, great food, great memories, and I get to remind myself every time I make a new charcuterie.
The biggest “issue” with making egg salad is hard boiling the eggs first. Lucky for me, my husband loves eggs and bought this cure little cooker that can cook them a variety of ways – including hard boiled – very easily. For this recipe, I assembled everything while the eggs cooked, which only took 10-11 minutes. Which makes this not only a lunch you can easily pack the night before, but a quick WFH lunch that covers two days.
I searched the internet for a recipe that was similar to the one I had initially liked so much. The one that came the closest is the Tarragon Egg Salad recipe from The Food Network. And it couldn’t be easier.
The recipe calls for 4 eggs, which makes two good sized sandwiches. I made one to eat and saved the rest to make a sandwich tomorrow. Here is the recipe:
Tarragon Egg Salad recipe from The Food Network
4 to 6 eggs
3 Tb Mayonnaise
1 chopped shallot
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 Tb chopped Tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
The recipe calls for serving it on Pumpernickel (which I love) but I chose to serve mine in a pita.
1) Make the hard cooked eggs:
Place 4 to 6 eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch and bring to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat and set aside for 8-10 minutes.
Darin, then peel in a bowl of cold water.
Chop the hard boiled eggs.
2) Mix the 3 Tb of mayonnaise, 1 chopped shallot, 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 1 Tb chopped tarragon and salt and pepper. Add in the chopped eggs and mix well.
3) Serve on bread (or in a pita).
If you try this one, please let me know if you like it. And if you've had the one at Starbucks, let me know how you think this one compares. Thanks!
Yesterday I was feeling uninspired for lunch. I was hungry, and I had gone food shopping so I had supplies but nothing was calling out to me. I did feel like like I needed some more green veggies, though. So this was my solution:
1/2 of a bag of Publix pizza dough
Broccolini florets - cut into smaller florets
fresh basil - cut into strips
black olives - sliced
fresh cracked pepper and salt
1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
2. Roll out the dough onto a lightly oiled or nonstick pizza pan
lightly brush the dough with olive oil, especially the crust
3. Sprinkle cracked pepper and salt around the crust.
4. Place the broccolini florets and basil in the center of the pizza, trying to cover as much of the crust as possible.
5. Sprinkle the broccoli with olive oil.
6. Sprinkle with crumbled feta to taste.
7. Cook for 15 minutes on the center rack.
This is such an easy and quick solution. Let me know if you try it for yourself, and what your favorite toppings are!
On my quest to continue to find easy lunches to spice up my WFH lunches, I came across this recipe from ALLRECIPES.com. They say it’s a family favorite that’s been saved 48,581 times. That kind of street cred made me think it was worth a try in the Delaney Test Kitchen. It was definitely easy, and was a nice change from plain old grilled cheese. Prep was only 5 minutes, and then 10 minutes to cook. Here’s the recipe:
Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich
· 2 slices Italian bread
· 1 tablespoon softened butter, divided
· 1 tablespoon prepared pesto sauce, divided
· 1 slice provolone cheese
· 2 slices tomato
· 1 slice American cheese
Spread one side of a slice of bread with butter, and place it, buttered side down, into a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Spread the top of the bread slice in the skillet with half the pesto sauce, and place a slice of provolone cheese, the tomato slices, and the slice of American cheese onto the pesto.
Spread remaining pesto sauce on one side of the second slice of bread, and place the bread slice, pesto side down, onto the sandwich. Butter the top side of the sandwich.
Gently fry the sandwich, flipping once, until both sides of the bread are golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes per side.
I really love salmon, but no one else in my house does. My husband hates the smell. So other than grilling it outside, I am always looking for a better way to cook it. And I finally found it.
With this recipe you can either plate it and eat it, or save it and put it on a salad the next day. I did both, and to me that is a huge win. Plus, this recipe can double for an easy WFH lunch or dinner.
This recipe is from the “5 Dishes to Cook this Week” from the 2/28/21 New York Times. I’ve linked to the recipe, but here is the best part: In addition to the salmon all you need to have on hand is foil, extra virgin olive oil, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and salt and pepper. Easy Peasy. Even easier? You can prepare the foil packets the night before so that they are ready to go for lunch.
When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 500 degrees. Place the packages in a roasting pan, and cook for 5 -8 minutes once the mixture starts to sizzle. All in, I cooked mine for 12 minutes and it was perfect. This was a Delaney Test Kitchen WIN! Here are the details:
Salmon and Tomatoes in Foil
It always seems appropriate to serve fish on my Royal Touquay Dishes from Motteheda. With the seashells and coral in the pattern, it's just so pretty. This modern reproduction of an old pattern are also dishwasher and microwave safe. It is an interpretation of the original Winterthur Museum Torquay pattern. The original blue and white Swansea pattern was named after the elegant resort town of Torquay on the southern coast of England.
Another super-easy, healthy lunch is pizza for one. It’s the perfect WFH lunch since you couldn’t do this at the office. It takes only minutes to prep, and two minutes to cook. Here are my two favorites, but I’d love to hear about any special mix of toppings that are your favorites!
Pizza #1: Kale Pesto Pizza
Step One: I start with 1 bag of pizza dough from Publix. And I cut it in half.
Step Two: Preheat the oven to 425 F. I use a round pizza baking tray to cook mine, but you could use a pizza stone as well.
Step Three - Making the Kale Pesto:
I use my small Cuisinart Mini-chop food processor to make the pesto. I fill it to the top, and pack it in a little, with Tuscan kale leaves that I removed from the stems. (You will not use the whole bunch – and you’ll use the other leaves later. ) Tear the leaves into pieces before adding them in. Then add a handful of pecan halves, half of a lemon’s worth of lemon juice, one clove of garlic (minced), a few dashes of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix it a little, then add 1/3 cup of olive oil and continue to blend.
Roll out the pizza dough thinly, with just a little olive oil on the rolling pin so it doesn’t stick. Then place it on the pizza tray or stone, and brush the outer edge of the crust with some olive oil.
Top the pizza with a layer of pesto, sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top.
Take some of the remaining kale leaves and chop them before mixing with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Make sure the kale is evenly coated, and then place it evenly on the top of the pizza.
Step Six: Bake for 10-12 minutes, based on how hot your oven runs. And voila!
BTW - I always seem to end up with leftover pesto that I use for lunch the next day. I will toast an English muffin, spread the pesto on top, and sprinkle with feta. Yum!
Pizza #2: Brussel Sprouts and Red Onion Pizza with Balsamic Vinegar
Note: This one only takes a few minutes longer than the kale pizza – about 20 minutes max.
I start with the other half of the Publix pizza dough. Roll it out thinly, with just a little olive oil on the rolling pin so it doesn’t stick. Then place it on the pizza tray or stone, and brush the outer edge of the crust with some olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Take 4 medium to large Brussel sprouts and trim off the stems and pull off the leaves. Place the leaves in a small mixing bowl. Add in 2 tsp of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and mix it up. Then set it to the side.
Slice four or five thin rounds off of a red onion, and separate the circles. Add them to a small saute pan with 1 Tb spoon of olive oil and cook over medium heat. Add a dash of salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Toss and cook for 10 minutes. Then add ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, mix and cook until the onions absorb the balsamic. Then set aside.
Top the dough with the red onions, then some mozzarella cheese, and add the brussels on top and finish with some freshly grated parmesan. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes. Enjoy!
I LOVE a good tuna salad sandwich. I usually only make them on weekends since I don't want to be THAT person who stinks up the break room with the smell of fish. But now that we are working from home I have added it back into the weekly repertoire. And imagine my delight when I read the article in the New York Times Magazine that this recipe for a tuna-salad sandwich is Julia Child Approved. Everyone always wanted to cook something complicated and fancy for Julia when she traveled, so "when she got home, she craved simple food and seized what opportunities she had to enjoy it. Although she knew that visitors often expected something posh, even she, a gracious and energetic host, wasn’t likely to make a fancy lunch, so she cleverly turned the tuna sandwich into her midday signature." Here is the link to the Tuna Salad Sandwich - Julia Child Style. It is pretty easy to pull together. It took me ten minutes tops to make mine for lunch the other day, and the recipe makes enough for two people. Or enough to save for lunch the next day. Remember that for Julia, the important ingredients for this sandwich were the tuna (it had to be packed in oil) and the mayo (she preferred Hellmann’s). And she preferred Bay's english muffins. She loved to add on the onions. And with working from home, you don't have to worry about who your breath may offend in the afternoon. So Enjoy!
INGREDIENTS FOR THE TUNA SALAD:
I love shrimp tacos. And this concoction I’ve come up with makes it so easy to enjoy them for lunch.
I buy a bag of the frozen, cooked greenwise shrimp from Publix to keep on hand. I take out 8 shrimp and add them to a small colander and run cool water over them for five minutes to defrost them.
While those are defrosting, I set up my taco supplies. It varies every time, but I tend to lean to a mix of some of the following, depending on what I have on hand that week: sliced red cabbage, sliced lettuce, chopped green onions, sliced olives, shredded sharp cheddar, fresh cilantro, crumbled goat cheese, guacamole, and light sour cream. Sometimes I’ll add some black beans if I have some leftover from dinner.
I get out a small sauce pan and add a teaspoon of olive oil, and add the defrosted shrimp. Since they are already cooked, at this point could simply be added to a salad. But I like them warm in my tacos. So I add them to the saucepan along with a little salt and pepper and a dash or two of cumin, and some diced onion. I cook it on medium until the shrimp starts to looked cooked with a little brown on the sides.
While the shrimp are warming up, I warm two small tortillas in the microwave for 15 seconds.
Then its simple – just assemble your tacos with the toppings you prefer.
The whole thing takes no more than 10 minutes to assemble.
So I’ve been working from home since March 13, and lunches were getting really boring. There are only so many turkey sandwiches I can eat. So I decided to address the issue.
One solution I found is rotisserie chicken. I get it on Monday, pull all the meat off and put it in a container in the fridge. Then I can use it throughout the week the week for tacos, salads, quesadillas, etc…
The first recipe I’ll share is for my Salad with Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Chickpeas.
I fill the bottom of the bowl with a mixture of arugula and butter lettuce, but you can use whatever kind you like. On top I decorate it with (in this example) roasted chickpeas, chopped green onions, sliced tomatoes, pitted Kalamata olives, sliced cucumbers, and feta. And rotisserie chicken of course. With the feta I didn’t feel like it needed a dressing, but sometimes I’ll use a light vinaigrette or even just a squirt of lemon juice.
The “hardest” part is roasting the chickpeas, which is really kind of easy:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400F
Step 2: Rinse and drain the chickpeas (one 15oz can)
Step 3: Dry the chickpeas between two dishtowels. They need to be very dry. Discard any shells that roll off.
Step 4: I used a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, and add the beans on top of the parchment. Mix them with 1 ½ Tb of olive oil, and sprinkle with some salt.
Step 5: Roast the chickpeas. This takes about 20 minutes. Stir them at the 10 minute mark to make sure they cook more evenly.
Step 6: When they are crispy they are done. Take them out of the oven and season them if you wish.
I like to keep it simple and use sea salt and fresh ground pepper on mine, and then add them to the salad when they are still warm.
Then, the next day or later in the week there is still chicken available for some Lunchtime Rotisserie Chicken Tacos with Crema. I warm up the tortilla in the microwave on a paper towel for just 15 seconds. And I warm the chicken on the stove in a small saute pan with a dash of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and a few dashes of cumin. Once the chicken is warm I add it to the tortilla and top it with some lettuce, some cheese, a little Cilantro Lime Crema (I buy it at Costco) and chopped cilantro on top. This is the perfect amount of food for me with a nice balance of protein and carbs to make it through the rest of the work day and through baseball practice.