When I’m in need of a summertime “grab and run” meal that has extreme flavor and crunch, chopped salads are my answer. The five I turn to most are easy to pack and don’t require cooking.
Inspired by the Southern Indian carrot coleslaw my mother would make for us kids, I now toss together finely chopped carrots, sprouted lentils, jalapeño and lime juice. It has morphed into many other variations for my own family, like a mash-up with Moroccan influence — the juicy and refreshing Spicy Beet and Carrot Coleslaw. My children steal bites from my carry-and-go container.
My cucumber salad is another mash-up, an ode to Northern India’s kachumber salad and the Mediterranean chopped salad: The combination of Persian cucumber, red onion, tomato and feta cheese stays crisp for a week in the refrigerator. I have found that it travels well in Mason jars during more temperate weather, and in a Thermos during hot summer days.
A friend who has tasted my pineapple and pepper salad loves its burst of tart and sweet flavors so much that she made me bring it to her summer party — proof that such chopped salads can serve as fabulous sides for a crowd.
Here’s what I might like best about them, though: Chopped salads also can become the basis for a meal on their own. Spoon them on slices of chewy ciabatta or French bread. Bundle them into a spinach or whole-grain wrap along with a squirt of Sriracha (that’s what I like to do with my chickpea salad). Or add a little broth and turn them into gazpacho in the food processor.
Of course, chopped salads are spot-on for the grain-bowl trend. I take a travel bowl, filling half the bottom layer with cooked bulgur or millet and the other half with greens. Next, a layer of the chopped salad, and then I top off the bowl with avocado, dried fruit and/or nuts, and the occasional drizzle of balsamic glaze. If you don’t have any leftover grains handy, don’t fret. All it takes is a little planning and no cooking. It is very easy to make a batch of overnight grains that needs no cooking, either — just a long soak.
Start with my plan, then branch out to create your own chopped salads. They’ll come to your rescue as they have come to mine.
Tilak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter: @visitilak.
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