my all-time favorite brown-bag lunch is a marinated tuscan kale + parsley salad with avocado, currants, and spiced toasted pepitas. it’s so ridiculously easy, you can have it fully assembled in 5 minutes right before bedtime (maybe one day i’ll be able to do this while i brush my teeth, but i’m not there yet 🙂 or in the morning while the coffee brews.
i buy a few bunches of organic leafy greens each week — usually tuscan kale, collards, parsley, and cilantro — and prep them on the day i bring them home. after removing the tough stems i roughly tear the leaves into large pieces, then wash and spin them dry in my trusty oxo salad spinner and drain off the water.
stored in their spinner (lid on) in the fridge, the cleaned greens keep incredibly well throughout the week, so all i have to do is grab a handul or two for my morning green smoothie, salads, soups, etc. having greens at-the-ready makes a huge difference in how i eat during the workweek; i’m more motivated to create a home-cooked meal even on those nights when ordering in can seem oh-so-tempting.
for salad assembly, i toss a few handfuls of cleaned tuscan kale and parsley into a container, add currants, sea salt and black pepper, a big squeeze of lemon and glug of olive oil. sometimes i add some crumbles of goat feta, too. i give it a shake, then pop it in the fridge to marinate. tuscan (aka lacinato or dinosaur) kale is more delicate – and easier on the digestion – than the curly variety. after marinating for a few hours or overnight it’s tender but retains its integrity and doesn’t go soggy or mushy like dressed lettuce can. when it’s time to eat i’ll add cubes of avocado and the rest of the fixings.
my newest twist on the kale-avocado salad is a sprinkling of salty, spicy, maple-kissed toasted pepitas – they’re the perfect finishing touch. pepitas are hulled green (raw) pumpkin seeds, and i love adding them to salads and granola, and using them as a garnish on creamy vegetable soups (like this one).
tossed with warming cumin, coriander, chile powder, olive oil, and maple syrup, and given a quick toast in the oven, the pepitas turn a lovely golden color and become deliciously crispy and savory. plus these cute little guys are high in protein, minerals (especially iron and zinc), vitamin A, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. i could sprinkle them on anything! chocolate ice cream is not out of the question… the spiced pepitas are quite tasty as a solo snack, too, and would make a great addition to trail mix or accompaniment to cocktails.
although i love my portable lunches, i’m not a fan of eating straight from my to-go container. a few months ago i bought a simple ceramic soup bowl to keep at the office, and i’ve found it really brightens up the midday meal. (i found the bowl at the japanese culinary center on 45th street near 3rd ave in manhattan; it’s a fun place to check out if you’re in the area. they have a huge selection of pottery and specialty foods, too.)
here’s to a better brown bag.
crispy spiced pepitas
makes 1 cup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (i used dark grade B)
3/4 teaspoon fine-grained sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon chile powder
1 cup pepitas
heat oven to 350 F.
whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and spices in a bowl. add the pepitas and toss to evenly coat.
transfer pepitas to a baking sheet, spreading them out evenly. bake for about 5 minutes, stir, and then bake for 3 to 4 minutes more. keep a close eye on them since they’re small and easy to scorch! they’re done when they’ve turned golden-hued and aromatic.
marinated tuscan kale salad with avocado, currants + toasted spicy pepitas
makes 1 main-course-sized salad
2 to 3 cups of tuscan kale leaves, stems removed, torn into bite size pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup of parsley leaves, roughly torn
small handful (about 2 tablespoons) of currants (or sub-in black or golden raisins, dried cranberries, etc)
a few crumbles of feta (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon
big glug of extra virgin olive oil (2 to 3 tablespoons… or more… i’m not shy with the olive oil around here:)
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/2 avocado, cubed
handful of crispy pepitas
combine all ingredients except avocado and pepitas in your to-go container of choice, seasoning to taste with salt and black pepper. shake it up and transfer to fridge. i like to let the salad sit at room temp for about 15 minutes before eating to take off the chill. give the salad another good shake, and top with avocado and pepitas.