Things that make me sadder than anything:
1. People eating alone.
2. People eating a sad lunch.
3. People eating a sad lunch alone. That's about when my heart turns into mush.
I have seen more sad meals than I care to admit, a good portion of which was my own. I am still learning the tricks and working my way around packing my lunch properly, so this will not be the last post you see about this.
But for now, let's talk about the saddest lunch of all: that little tuna can you grab on your way out with a lemon, a tomato, half an avocado and whatever else that's been laying around your fridge for the past couple of days. You’re probably thinking you will head down to the market and buy a can of corn to make it all festive.
First order of business: SCRATCH THE CORN. No good ever comes out of canned corn, unless there’s a significant amount of butter involved.
Second order of business: do not chop the tomatoes and mix them with the tuna, unless you are using whole cherry tomatoes. Juices from the tomato will just make the salad soggy and sad, so sad.
Third, and please go with me on this one: no iceberg lettuce. I know it’s the easiest kind of lettuce to wash and you’ve been practically brainwashed by every large food franchise to think that it is the only kind of lettuce that is in existence but no, just no. Iceberg lettuce shines elsewhere, but here, you’re looking for playful vibrant greens. You want something that hold its shape without being too crunchy, something that will complement the texture of the tuna without countering it. Enter red leaf lettuce.
Or as we know it in slang: lollo rosso. Romaine would also work great as long as you choose the smaller leaves.
You can wash the vegetables ahead of time, or at the office. I usually wash all my vegetables once a week and they last pretty well in the fridge. I store everything in Ziplock bags and I have discovered that the trick is not to dry everything as much as you can but to make sure you put a layer of napkins before dropping the vegetables in the bag, that way the napkin sucks up all the moisture and the vegetables stay fresh for longer.
When you want to prepare your lunch at the office, it would be a good idea to have some of these on hand:
- Olive oil, vinegar, mustard, black pepper
- Vegetable peeler and or vegetable grater
- A small cutting knife (nothing fancy, just any knife that will you know, cut vegetables)
- A salad bowl, big enough for you to mix everything in it. Personally I like arranging everything on a big plate but a big bowl would definitely be more practical.
I’ve never been a great fan of pickled foods. I don’t mind pickles, but I never find myself craving them, and I usually prefer to go with fresh vegetables that give the same tangy taste without the extra acidity so I always make sure to have things like radish and turnips around. Turnips are absolutely fantastic here; you can either grate and incorporate them with the tuna, or with slice real thin and toss them with the rest of the salad.
NOT SO SAD TUNA SALAD
1 small can of tuna
1 tablespoon of olive oil plus more for the quinoa
½ a teaspoon of mustard or mustard powder (optional)
½ a lemon
½ a cup of cooked quinoa (you can replace with pasta, bread or any other grains you have on hand)
3 small carrots
1 small turnip
½ an avocado
3 or 4 leaves of lettuce (or more if you like)
In a small bowl, pour one tablespoon of olive oil then squeeze half the lemon right on top of it. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and the mustard powder if using, and mix with a fork until the sauce comes together. If you are using mustard, then make sure you add it at the beginning with the oil. If you add it after the lemon juice it won't mix well and you'll have a lumpy sauce. Drain the tuna well and add to the bowl. Mix with the sauce until well combined. Set aside.
Place the cooked quinoa (or pasta, noodles, chickpeas or any other grains you’re using). With a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots over or next to the quinoa to get nice ribbons. If this seems too much of a hassle or if you don’t have a peeler, then grating will work just fine.
Slice the radishes and turnip into thin rounds or quarters (depending on their size). Chop the avocado and add it to the plate. With your hands, tear the lettuce leaves into bite sized pieces and add to the plate. Drizzle with more olive oil goodness if desired.