Monday, October 28, 2013

Salad + Jar = Love

I'm always on the lookout for healthy and affordable lunches that travel well and are easy to make in advance. Just because you have to eat at your desk on occasion doesn't mean your food has to be boring. Admittedly, my go-to sack lunch these days has been a pretty boring arrangement of hard boiled eggs, pretzels, string cheese and fruit or whatever was leftover from dinner the night before. It does the job but I don't find myself too excited about what awaits me in the fridge when noon rolls around. That all changed when I finally came around to the salad in a jar craze that's been sweeping Pinterest.

(Source: Pinterest)

I'm no stranger to packing a salad for lunch, but I don't love eating soggy greens or having to carry a separate container for the dressing and praying it doesn't leak. The genius of the salad in a jar is that by stacking the ingredients in a strategic way, you can fit the dressing and salad in one container and keep everything crisp by confining the liquid dressing to the bottom of the jar. Salad in a jar will stay fresh for many days, so you can prepare everything on Sunday and have lunches saved for the rest of the week. Also, they're just so pretty to look at, aren't they?

I personally don't like eating the same thing five days a week, so I started out by only making two jars, inspired by this Asian Noodle Salad recipe. I've expressed my love for Asian salads before, and I always have some buckwheat noodles on hand, so it was the perfect place to start my salad in a jar escapades.

Just chop everything, cook and cool the noodles and edamame and prepare the dressing.

The dressing calls for sambal oelek, which is just chili sauce. I used jarred chili garlic sauce but sriracha would probably work too.

I also subbed toasted sesame oil for olive oil since it adds another element of great Asian flavor. When building a salad in a jar, you want to put the dressing on the bottom, followed by a sturdy ingredient that will benefit from soaking up the liquid and not compromise its texture. For example, I used two to three tablespoons of dressing topped with my buckwheat noodles then shredded carrot, halved mini heirloom tomatoes, edamame, red bell pepper and green onions.

Seal the jars and stash in the fridge for up to a week. At lunchtime, either shake the jar to combine ingredients and eat right from the jar or turn out into a bowl. With this thick dressing, I found it best to pour into a bowl and stir before eating. Now that's a lunch to look forward to!

Asian Noodle Salad in a Jar
Adapted from Foxes Love Lemons
(Makes 2 jars)

1 cup cooked buckwheat noodles
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced mini heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup cooked and shelled edamame
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. peanut butter
4 tsp. chili garlic sauce
4 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tsp. sesame seeds

If using frozen edamame, cook in a large pot of boiling water for a few minutes until tender. Remove edamame from pot with slotted spoon and cool. Use the same water to cook buckwheat noodles according to package instructions. Drain and cool the noodles, rinsing under cold water. 

In a small bowl, mix the peanut butter, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar and tamari. Slowly drizzle in the sesame oil while whisking until emulsified. Stir in sesame seeds.

Add two to three tablespoons of dressing to the bottom of each jar. Top each with half the buckwheat noodles, shredded carrot, tomatoes, edamame, red bell pepper and green onion. Seal the jars with lids and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I feel the same way about salads. Opening a tuperware of a already made salad just doesn't appeal to me... so my solution is just to make it at work! I bring all the ingredients deconstructed (bag of spinach, chopped of vegs, hummus) and then just combine. Yours is a lot prettier though.