Have you ever thought about what makes up a salad? Greens, right? Vegetables? But what about a potato salad? Or a quinoa salad? The word “salad” is applied more liberally than when a Baby Boomer grasps a meme. Generally speaking though, we seem to think it means something ‘healthy’, ‘light’ and ‘not great, but like probably fine’. 

Bringing in a salad into work for a desk lunch always feels a little like you’re the lead in a rom-com, but at the start of the movie when Katherine Heigl is unsatisfied in love and lunch. It’s either bland as fuck or something which should be great, like a Caprese gone all soggy and gross in the commute. But don’t fear, Katherine: I don’t know much about love, but I sure as hell can help you with an ace office salad. Here are three options which go beyond a few greens, dash of dressing and enough seasoning to carve out a crevasse in Bolivia’s salt flats.


Three Ways To Spruce Up Your Sad Office Salads & Make Everyone Jealous

I couldn’t find a pic of Katherine w/ a salad so pretend she’s in the middle here. (Image source: Gettyimages.com)

SESAME-SOY SOBA NOODLE SALAD 

Three Ways To Spruce Up Your Sad Office Salads & Make Everyone Jealous

Add podded peas for colour. Image source: CookieandKate.com

 

What you’ll need:

 – Soba noodles

 – Two cucumbers

 – Two carrots

 – Spring onions 

 – Rice vinegar (you can get this in most Asian aisles)

 – 1 sheet of Nori/roasted seaweed

 – Toasted sesame seeds

  – Snow peas

These Japanese buckwheat noodles (#glutenfree, for those playing at home) are damn easy to dress up into a salad, and work well cold or hot. We’re going with the former though, since your work microwave has probably never been cleaned. Soba noodles are our favourite, and not just because they take about three minutes to cook in boiling water: buckwheat gives them this wonderful silkiness and slight nuttiness, perfect for a salad. 

While the noodles cook, you’re going to want to slice the seaweed into strips, chop the spring onions – just the green parts – and julienne the carrots and cucumbers, which just means cutting them vertically into long, very thin pieces. Make it easier by slicing the vegetables into bigger chunks first. Drain your noodles, toss everything through with a couple of dashes of soy sauce and mirin, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and torn snow peas for added crunch. Chuck some wasabi or pickled ginger in too, if you’re into it. 

GO EXTRA: It’s currently vegan, but if you’re craving meat, add poached chicken or seared steak.

ANCIENT GRAIN SALAD WITH CURRY DRESSING


Three Ways To Spruce Up Your Sad Office Salads & Make Everyone Jealous

 Everything is better with feta. (Image source: Notwithoutsalt.com)

What you’ll need:

 – 200gms spelt grain (or the more common farro or freekah if you can’t find it)

 – Fennel bulbs, around eight

 – Mint
 – Curry powder

 – Lemon juice

 – Feta

Taste the nourishment, feel the power. Grainy salads can feel like a mouthful of earth, but this one’s a simple balance of texture with spice. Spelt, freekah and farro all take different amounts of time to cook in salted boiling water – spelt and cracked freekah are the winners at around 15-20 mins, while farro can take halfa. Meanwhile, cut the fennel bulbs into thin slices, and pop ’em in a pan over medium heat with olive oil. They’ll take time to caramelise, about 10 or so, then sprinkle over curry powder and lemon juice and cook for just 30 seconds. 

Drain the farro, mix it all together – add some mint on top. Currents or sultanas would add a sweetness against the spices.

GO EXTRA: Ancient grain salads are pretty endless: it’s a great base for seasonal produce, so I’d just experiment with your faves. One tip? Add pan-grilled broccoli into the mix. It’s basic, but it ain’t #basic.

ROAST PUMPKIN SALAD WITH QUINOA AND GOAT’S CHEESE

Three Ways To Spruce Up Your Sad Office Salads & Make Everyone Jealous

Get it into ya. (Image source: TheMerchantStock.com.au)

What you need:

 – Butternut pumpkin

 – Goat’s cheese

 – 200 gms white quinoa

 – Walnuts/Pistachios/ya favourite nut

 – Spinach

 – Olive oil

I’ve keeping things pretty seasonal, and thought we’d go out on a bang – there are few better ways to greet the early onslaught of a chilly winter than pumpkin. Peeling a pumpkin is awkward, but I reckon it only reaches at max a 3/10 on the difficulty scale. 

Go with butternut since the skin’s softest, plus it’s not as sweet. Just cut it into a five-six chunks then peel it before cutting it down to bite-sized chunks. If you’re struggling (why? but sure) then just roast it with olive oil in the oven for 20 or so at 200 degrees, and when it’s done you can slice the skin off easy.

Quinoa takes about 15-20 to cook on a stove-top: time it well, and they’ll be ready at the same time. Divvy out the pumpkin so it’s not the ONLY thing you can taste: balance it on a bed of puffy quinoa with real creamy goat’s cheese, spinach leaves and walnuts. Drizzle with oil and season.

GO EXTRA: Chilli flakes play nicely against the goat’s cheese – add as much as you want.

The best part? Eating one of these bad boys makes you look like you have your shit together in front of your work m8s. 

Three Ways To Spruce Up Your Sad Office Salads & Make Everyone Jealous

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)