More and more, the fridges in our offices are filled with containers brought in by staffers weary of expensive, not-so-great store-bought lunches. Indeed, a little preplanning is all it takes to make a meal that does double duty: first as a delicious weeknight dinner and then as an affordable, energy-boosting lunch. What more could you want midday? Maybe a two-hour alfresco break, but back to real life, folks.
Grains -- brown rice, barley, and farro, to name a few -- are my secret weapon for homemade to-go salads. Almost any veggies, herbs, and meats can be mixed in. But the first step is to add some acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice, to the grains while they are hot so every bite has zip. The three variations here (by the way, feel free to use different grains) hold up beautifully in the refrigerator, which makes them excellent for do-ahead entertaining as well.
All In the Mix
Stir carrot, celery, mushrooms, and a mustardy vinaigrette into cooked barley (brown rice works, too). The sunny flavors of tomatoes, herbs, and feta make a transporting -- and transportable -- lunch.
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Three of a Kind
With grain salads in the fridge, you’re good to go. Try the flavor combos below, or improvise with your own favorite ingredients.
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- Barley, Mushroom, and Dill Salad
- Farro, Chickpea, Feta, and Mint Salad
- Brown Rice, Chicken, and Cilantro Salad
A slow simmer coaxes grains to tenderness. To maximize flavor, stir fresh lemon juice or vinegar into the pot while the grains are still warm.
1. Pearl Barley
Simmer 1 cup barley + 2 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 40 minutes. (Makes 3 cups.)
Simmer 1 cup bulgur + 1 1/2 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes. (Makes 3 cups.)
3. Wild rice
Simmer 1 1/4 cups wild rice + 2 1/3 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 45 to 50 minutes. (Makes 3 1/2 cups.)
Soak 1 cup farro (bluebirdgrainfarms.com) for 25 minutes; drain. Simmer with 2 3/4 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, uncovered, for 25 minutes. (Makes 2 1/2 cups.)
5. Wheat Berries
Simmer 1 cup wheat berries + 3 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 2 hours. (Makes 3 1/2 cups.)
6. Brown Rice
Simmer 1 cup rice + 1 3/4 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 50 minutes. (Makes 3 cups.)