When you’re in college, you probably have to pack a lunch at least once or twice a week, and maybe more often in the summer when you’re interning or working. We’ve found that the best way to handle this is by making a batch of something early in the week and portioning it out for the days you’ll need to take lunch. Kale Quinoa Salad is great because it’s extremely filling and easy to transport. (And it’s versatile — it can be served as a side dish at dinner!)
This post is the first in a series about making kick-ass packed lunches. Everyone will want to trade their boring sandwich or leftovers for your awesome flavorful salads, roast veggies, and yes, the occasional (way better than anyone else’s) sandwich. That list is a preview of the kinds of lunch recipes we’ll be sharing with you from now on.
Kale Quinoa Salad
serves 2-4 as a main or side, respectively
Quick pickled onions*
1 package mushrooms, preferably crimini or baby bella
2 tbsp miso paste (some grocery stores have this. If yours doesn’t, get it at the Asian market. If you don’t have one near you, you can just omit this and call them “soy-braised.”)
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (most grocery stores have this)
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic, if you’re a garlic lover
As much sriracha as you want
1. Wash and slice your mushrooms.
2. Mix all the other ingredients. Pour the mixture over the mushrooms. It’s okay if it’s a little viscous. It’ll coat the mushrooms better.
3. Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan. Dump the mushroom mixture in. Sauté, uncovered, until the mushrooms brown slightly. This means they’ll have released their liquid and it’s been cooked off.
4. Let them cool before you toss them with the other ingredients.
1 red onion
Juice of 1 lemon (2 lemons if it’s a huge red onion) OR 1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp salt
1. Slice your onions as thin as possible. Paper thin. Don’t cut your fingers off or anything, but the thinner the better. You’ll get better at this the more you practice.
2. Once they’re all sliced, arrange them as flat as you can on a plate with a rim. Ty to get them all in one layer if possible.
3. Pour your lemon juice OR white vinegar over them. If it’s not enough liquid to pool under them, add some water until all the onions seem to be making contact with the liquid. You could probably also do this in a tupperware completely filled with the lemon- or vinegar-water mixture. Experiment!
4. Sprinkle the salt on top.
5. Place the plate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The longer you leave them soaking, the less acidic your onions will be. Soaking them for a while gives them a nice sweet taste and they soften quite a bit, but if you like the crunchy spiciness of fresh red onions, by all means, get them out of there asap.
6. Dump out all the liquid (it should have turned slightly pink). Rinse your onions in cold water. They should be considerably softer. If they’re not, you gotta soak them some more. Unless you like them crunchy, as we’ve already mentioned. Anyway, after you rinse them, try to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. They’ve been soaking in salt, so you’re basically trying to wring out that overly-salty taste.
7. Taste your onions. Yummy? Cool. They’re ready. Too crunchy or spicy? Do steps 2-7 again.
1 tbsp olive or walnut oil
1 tbsp apple cider or white balsamic vinegar
Black pepper to taste
1. Pour these over your assembled salad. Toss.
2/3 cup dry quinoa
2 large handfuls baby kale
1. Cook your quinoa according to the directions on the package and let it cool while you work on the kale. We use a fantastic blend from Whole Foods called “Super Grains” that’s actually red and white quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. Very filling and great texture. And surprisingly cheap.
2. Gather your kale into a tight handful and chop it on your cutting board. This isn’t surgery — just chop it all into medium-small pieces. Don’t do it leaf-by-leaf. Just dump it all onto the board and whack at it with your knife a few times. But don’t get too crazy, or you might need surgery.
3. Dump the kale and cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Add the mushrooms and onions.
Note: Pickled onions really are the best for this recipe, but if you don’t feel like taking the time to do it, you could either put them in raw or substitute in some flavorful olives, roughly chopped. And if you don’t want to make miso mushrooms, you could just sauté them plain. Do what works for you.
4. Pour your dressing ingredients over it all and toss.
5. Stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. It can be eaten warm, but we personally like it better cold. See what works for you.
Packed lunch tip: If you’re taking this for lunch and you have more than one tupperware, separate it now so you can save yourself the trouble later in the week!