I told myself I'd never do it again. I told myself that this was the last time I'd fall prey to a sad desk lunch — and now, armed with a few quick and healthy lunch recipes that are the opposite of sad, I'm proud to say that you too can quit sad desk lunches for good. It's easier than you'd think. All it really takes is a handful of seasonal produce, less than 30 minutes in the kitchen, and a little herbivorous inspiration garnered from celebrity chef Hugh Acheson's latest cookbook, The Broad Fork .
Before you break out the cutting board and measuring spoons, let's first address the catalyst behind this energizing lunchtime makeover. As a self-taught, semi-professional gourmand with an office chair-based nine to five, I constantly struggle trying to experiment with fun new recipes that will get me excited for my highly anticipated 12 p.m. lunchtime, but won't leave me with a gnarly case of gout at the ripe old age of 31. I love you deep fried grilled cheese, I do, but my 30s are making it very clear that slow and steady doesn't win the metabolic race. Heavy meats, breads, and cheeses make me sluggish. I need to eat healthy, energizing lunches, but I also desperately need to break out of my Frank's hot sauce-smothered-lettuce-tomato-canned chickpea routine. Sad desk lunches are real, they're depressing, and they certainly don't motivate me to saddle up to a glowing screen for another four hours to produce a mind-blowing Q3 report.
To combat further sad lunching, I consulted my newest cookbook obsession, The Broad Fork. Released in May 2015, The Broad Fork is Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson's response to that age-old question, "What the hell do I do with kohlrabi?" Well, thanks to Acheson, I now know what the hell to do with kohlrabi — purée, marinate, steam, or sauté it.
And it's amazing what a little puréed kohlrabi can do for your metabolism. Acheson says, "I want energy and I think America wants a lot of energy these days. We need food that’s going to power us through and that’s what salads, avocados, and pure simple flavors do. They make us feel better." My point is, there's no need to settle for yet another sad desk lunch when we can find quick and creative culinary inspiration all around us. Lucky for you, you won't need to look too far, because I've included three personal adaptations of my favorite Broad Fork-inspired recipes below, so you can awaken the unruly beast that is your mid-day metabolism, and sad lunch no more.
1. Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Mixed Greens, Pickled Jalapeños, And Crumbled Feta
- 2 small sweet potatoes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flake
- 2-4 cups mixed greens, chopped (I used a blend of mustard greens, collard greens, and turnips greens)
- 3 tablespoons crumbled feta
- 1 fresh pickled jalapeño, sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cut the sweet potatoes in half, lengthwise, and rub each half with the olive oil and salt. Wrap each half in aluminum foil, and place on the center rack of the oven. Roast in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Unwrap the potatoes, and let them cool for about 10 minutes, or until you can handle them without screaming expletives.
3. As the sweet potatoes are cooling, heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, and add the chopped greens. Sprinkle the dried chili flake and a pinch of sea salt over the greens, and sauté in a pan for about five minutes, or until the greens have wilted slightly. Remove from heat, and add the greens on top of the sweet potatoes.
4. Sprinkle with crumbled feta and sliced jalapeños, and bask in the glory that is this anti-sad desk lunch.
(Adapted from Acheson's Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Lime, Queso Fresco, Chiles, and Cilantro recipe on page 86 of The Broad Fork.)
2. Radish And Cucumber Toast
- 2 hearty slices of your favorite crusty artisanal bread (I used sourdough)
- 2 tablespoons butter, slightly chilled
- 1/2 English cucumber, unpeeled and thinly sliced
- 4-6 small radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Toast the bread on a baking sheet in the oven for about five minutes until it turns slightly golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven, and admire your toast making abilities.
3. Spread one tablespoon of butter on each piece of toast. First distribute a layer of cucumbers, followed by a layer of radishes. Season with sea salt, drizzle with olive oil, and enjoy.
(Adapted from Acheson's Radish and Cucumber Sandwiches on page 239 of The Broad Fork.)
3. Kale Salad With Mustard Dressing, Capers, And Crispy Shallots
For the salad:
- 4 cups chopped Lacinato kale (a.k.a. dinosaur kale)
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
- 1/2 cup Wondra flour
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon capers
For the dressing:
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
- 2 ounces shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Pour all of the Wondra flour into a large mixing bowl. Gently toss the shallot rings in the Wondra flour until each ring is evenly coated with flour.
2. Heat one cup vegetable oil in a shallow pot over medium heat for about one minute. Once oil is hot, using a fork or slotted spoon, gently place each shallot ring in the hot oil. Fry each ring in the oil about one minute each, or until slightly golden brown. Using a fork or slotted spoon, remove each crispy shallot ring from the hot oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate until they're cool to the touch. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
3. Now make the dressing. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice, until evenly blended. Add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
4. Place the chopped Lacinato kale in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over the kale and toss until the leaves are evenly coated. Sprinkle the capers over the salad, then add the crispy shallots. Sprinkle with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, cracked black pepper, and behold another delicious and nutritious anti-sad desk lunch.
(Adapted from Acheson's Kale Salad with Crisp Shallots and Caper Dressing on page 133 of The Broad Fork.)
Images: Marion Bernstein (5)