Webster’s dictionary defines salad as a lunch that can go so incredibly wrong so, so quickly. Never mind the ingredients, though those are paramount to a #happydesklunch: It’s largely how you prepare and pack the thing that makes it worthwhile to eat. And if you’re making any (or all!) of these mistakes, you’re pretty much doomed. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
1. You’re not drying your greens.
Washing your lettuce is important for your wellbeing (it can be a breeding ground for E. coli), but drying it is the key to making a good salad. If you don’t, you risk eating a soggy jumble of ingredients for lunch. Plus, dressing doesn’t cling to wet greens the way it does to dry ones. Don’t bother investing in a space-hogging salad spinner. These methods work just as well.
2. You aren’t packing it correctly.
There’s a method, and you should be following it: Layer the heaviest, sturdiest ingredients (bell peppers, grains, nuts, beans) at the bottom, and work up to the lightest ones. Lettuce should always be placed near the top.
3. You’re adding the dressing hours before you eat the salad.
Nothing has the ability to wilt greens as quickly as salad dressing — whether it’s as light as oil and vinegar or as thick as your beloved ranch. Store a bottle in the fridge at work, or, if you’re worried about coworker food theft, opt for oil and vinegar, which are shelf-stable and can keep in your desk drawer. There are even mini containers made just for packing the stuff. The same goes for particularly juicy fruits or veggies. Leave ones like halved tomatoes or slices of pear in separate containers until you’re ready to eat.
Read more How to make chicken salad with grapes and pecans
4. You’re eating out of Tupperware.
By now, you’re probably familiar with the sad desk lunch phenomenon, and we’ll admit it: Salad isn’t always the most glamorous meal. Throwing it into an actual bowl or on top of a plate, though, does wonders in making it look more appetizing.
5. You’re not letting your grains cool.
We love adding grains like quinoa, farro, and barley to salads; they make them more filling. But beware of tossing the grains right into your bowl if you’re cooking them immediately before you make your lunch. The heat will cause leafy lettuce to get soggy.
6. You’re not seasoning your lettuce.
No, we’re not just talking about dressing. This is going one step further, and we learned the trick from Bobby Flay. The chef suggests adding salt and pepper to your greens before you even dress them. He says it draws out their flavors.
7. You’re relying on the same toppings.
Just because every restaurant in the world serves tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions on its house salad doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Literally anything in your fridge and pantry are fair game: Try romaine topped with Doritos, arugula with peaches, or kale with a fried egg.
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