Zest for Food: Make-ahead salads for a quick lunch

  • Triple Berry Couscous Salad. Photo by Marie Cassady

Published: 5/22/2020 1:13:31 PM

Lunch can be a bit of a challenge. It needs to be quick, and easy to pack in a lunch box. And ideally, something healthy that won’t make you feel sluggish in the afternoon.

The answer to the sandwich, soup, or packaged meal rut is make-ahead salads. You can prep them on the weekend, and its one less thing to do during your busy week. And if you are working from home, they are ready to grab between Zoom meetings or lessons.

They are also very versatile. Add in some chopped cooked chicken or seared tofu for a protein bowl, or as a side with any protein. Serve over greens, wrap in a tortilla, or stuff in a pita.

And of course, all are ready to eat as is. Add a piece of fruit for dessert and you are good to go.

Questions, ideas, suggestions? Contact me at zestfoodie@gmail.com.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

1 ½ cups quinoa

2 ¾ cups water

½ tsp kosher salt

1 large English cucumber, chopped

1 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained and chopped

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves

4 oz garlic and herb goat cheese, crumbled

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well. Place the quinoa, water and ½ tsp salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Refrigerate until cooled.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, ½ tsp salt and pepper. Add the chopped cucumber, red peppers and olives to quinoa. Stir in dressing. Add parsley and goat cheese and toss gently to combine.

Avocado Herb Chickpea Salad

1 avocado

½ cup Greek yogurt

1 tsp lemon juice

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup sliced scallions (about 2)

1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained

Place the avocado, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, parsley, cilantro, and scallions in a bowl. Mash the ingredients together until combined. Avocado may still be a bit chunky. Stir and mash the chickpeas into the avocado mixture.

Ziti Cheddar Salad

3 cups uncooked ziti

12 oz sharp cheddar, cubed

2 cups sliced radishes

1 medium green pepper, chopped

¾ cup mayonnaise

⅓ cup milk

¾ tsp dried dillweed

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Cook ziti according to package directions. Rinse with cold water, and drain well. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Fold in the ziti. Chill 6 hours, or overnight.

Triple Berry Couscous Salad

½ cup couscous

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

1 lime, juiced and zested

2 oz fresh baby spinach

1 heaping cup sliced strawberries

½ cup blueberries

½ cup blackberries

Prepare couscous according to package directions. Refrigerate to cool.

In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, honey, mint, lime juice and zest. Mix in the spinach and couscous. Add berries and toss gently to combine.

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