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Lunch at Your Desk

Herb-Marinated Goat Cheese with Fruit and Nuts

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by Tamar Adler
from Fine Cooking 111, p. 62-69

Lunch doesn’t have to be a dull routine of boring sandwiches, reheated leftovers, pre-made salads, and mediocre, pricey takeout. Instead, it should be a bright spot in the middle of your workday, a meal you look forward to, even if you’re eating it at your desk.

The trick is to rethink the very idea of lunch-forget sandwiches and instead think strategies. The four ideas here are my secrets to making the meal new, different, and delicious every day of the week.

Strategy 1: Some Assembly Required

Think of lunch as several tasty ingredients that you can assemble at your desk. I pack a variety of things I like and then at lunchtime, arrange them on a plate, almost like a composed salad.

Herb-Marinated Goat Cheese with Fruit and Nuts
  Herb-Marinated Goat Cheese with Fruit and Nuts
Strategy 2: Ditch the Deli Meat

Go beyond sliced turkey and ham; there are so many other ways to think about the protein on your plate. Roasted meats and fish, yogurt, cheese, toasted nuts, and eggs are just as portable and twice as exciting.

Flat Omelet with Scallions and Pickles
  Flat Omelet with Scallions and Pickles
Strategy 3: Make Over Leftovers

Get creative with last night’s dinner, whether it’s tossing cooked vegetables with a mustardy vinaigrette or serving cooked rice in a new way. Plan on a few leftovers, and you’ve got lunch insurance.

Lentil, Tuna, and Roasted Pepper Salad
  Lentil, Tuna, and Roasted Pepper Salad
Strategy 4: The Unplugged Lunch

Pack foods that are good at room temperature so they don’t taste leftover-y or refrigerator-y when you sit down to eat them. I like to think that avoiding the microwave keeps lunch feeling more dignified.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Tangy Cucumbers and Yogurt
  Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Tangy Cucumbers and Yogurt

Get Packing
What you pack your lunch in, and what you eat it on, makes a big difference. Here are some ideas that will help make your midday meal feel special:

Choose Green Reusable plastic containers, small glass Mason jars, and segmented lunch boxes (like stacking metal tiffin carriers or bento boxes) are less wasteful than plastic bags and make your food look as exciting as it tastes.

Stock Up Keep a cutting board and serrated knife at work, along with a small bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, a jar of fleur de sel or kosher salt, and a pepper grinder. This way, you can cut up fresh fruits or vegetables just before you eat them and easily dress your lunch to your taste.

Get Real Buy a ceramic plate or wide, shallow bowl, a set of silverware, and a water glass and mug to keep at work. Eating lunch on a real plate with real utensils and drinking from a real glass is sure to change how you feel about bringing your lunch from home.

Photos: Scott Phillips




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