I sure love to taste a little bit of San Francisco every day but once in a while I do like to pack something homemade my lunch box.
Homemade lunches work great, especially on crazy busy days or those rainy days when I can stay in and continue ploughing through my work.I find it quite boring to bring in previous night’s leftovers for lunch next day. Instead, I indulge in some cooking therapy after dinner, whipping up a signature concoctions like quick lemony tuna salad sandwich, a light mung bean salad with tangy Chaat Masala vinaigrette or a hearty Greek-style quinoa bowl in my lunch box. Check out my easy lunch ideas and get packing a punch in your lunch box!
Lemony Tuna Salad Sandwich
I don’t particularly care for the classic tuna salad that’s made with mayo and most times, with celery hiding in it . So, I came up with a recipe of my own!
My tuna salad is vibrant and refreshing, bursting with zesty flavors from lemon, cilantro and green onion. I prefer the tuna packed in olive oil; I find it to be more flavorful than tuna packed in water. I usually pick up cans from Trader Joe’s or at times find them in bulk at Costco. Alternatively, you could use tuna packed in water, drain it, and then add a bit of your favorite kind of extra virgin olive oil to it.
This tuna salad is a family favorite! My husband has it sandwiched between slices of the sourdough wheat bread, my little girl gets a sandwich made with soft wheat bread and then I simply enjoy it laid over a bed of mixed green, along with cannelloni beans or short pasta and vegetables like shaved fennel, cucumber or steamed artichokes. Whichever way you choose to have it, I promise you’ll love enjoy every bite of this humble tuna salad!
Makes 3-4 sandwiches
1 can (5 or 7 oz) Solid Light or Dark Tuna in Olive Oil, most oil drained
1-2 stems of spring onion/scallions, white and light green part minced
4-5 sprigs of cilantro, tender parts of stems and leaves minced
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
fresh cracked black pepper
Transfer the drained tuna from the can and using a fork, break the chunky meat into smaller pieces.
Add the spring onion, cilantro and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice out of the lemon over it.
Mix well and spread over toasted bread or lay over a bed of your favorite lettuce.
Prepared tuna salad can be stored in an air tight container and can last in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days.
Mung Bean Salad with Chaat Masala Vinaigrette
Sprouted mung bean are deliciously healthy! The more you eat, the more you get it’s precious plant protein and essential fiber. Growing up, I ate all kinds of sprouted beans like the moth bean, fava bean and even black chick peas or Bengal gram but my favorite is the small, green, oval-shaped mung bean.
Mung beans can be purchased whole or split and hulled. They are delicate and slightly sweet in flavor and range in color from green to yellow and even black. I often make my mom’s traditional recipe by simmering the sprouted beans in a sweet, spicy broth made with the Maharashtrian kala/goda masala, jaggery and lots of grated coconut. The a dish, paired with Basmati rice or roti (Indian bread), is a delicious, nourishing meal that is light and relatively easy to digest.
The other way of preparing the sprouted beans is to have them raw, in the form of raita salad. My mom makes a koshimbir/raita salad by tossing the sprouted beans in lemon juice and seasoned hot oil. She also throws in some diced cucumber and red onions, and serves it slightly chilled. This was the inspiration behind my salad, in which sprouted mung beans are tossed in with mixed greens, diced cucumbers, grape tomatoes and the dressing. I also mix in sliced red radishes, shredded carrots, peas, edamame, whatever I have handy in my refrigerator.
What makes my salad unique is my home made Chaat Masala vinaigrette! While at cooking school, I learnt how to make the classic vinaigrette, in which oil and lemon juice or vinegar are emulsified with the use of mustard. The emulsified sauce can then be seasoned with salt, pepper and other spices, dried or fresh herbs, shallots, capers or even grated cheese like Parmesan or crumbled Feta /Goat cheese to create your kind of salad dressing. Using the technique I learnt at school, I came up with the Chaat Masala vinaigrette, that is just perfect for the mung bean salad!
1 bag (about 4-5 oz) mixed greens or any other kind of lettuce
1 cup sprouted green moong beans
1-2 Persian cucumbers, diced
1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
3-4 red radishes, sliced or quartered
1 cup carrots, diced or shredded
Makes about 1 cup
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp mustard (ground wholegrain or Dijon)
about ¾ cup canola/vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1-2 tsp Chaat Masala (MDH Chunky Chaat Masala recommended)
fresh ground black pepper
Preparing the Vinaigrette
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the mustard until the mustard has dissolved. Slowly, in a thin stream, add the oil whisking constantly until the oil is completely incorporated. Season with ground cumin, coriander, Chaat masala and fresh ground black pepper and whisk a little bit to mix well. Adjust seasonings by adding salt if needed.
The remaining vinaigrette may be held in the refrigerator indefinitely. Shake or whisk to re-emulsify it, if needed.
Assembling the Salad
Just before serving, combine the sprouted moog beans with diced cucumber, cherry/grape tomatoes, sliced red radishes and shredded Carrots. Add the mixed greens and drizzle the vinaigrette over, being careful not to add too much. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and toss gently. The ingredients should be lightly coated.
Greek-style Quinoa Bowl
I usually don’t go through food phases, but quinoa seems to have done it to me . It’s been more than a year ago, when I took the first bite of this power food at one of my usual lunch places and I was hooked! Since then, I eat it all the time. I have tried it in every shape and form – salads, soups, pilafs, patties or kebabs. I love the everything about it – it’s mild flavor, light and crunchy texture and of course, its high nutritional values.
Quinoa, though technically a seed in the herb family, is considered a member of the grain family. It certainly seems to be enjoying it’s popularity here, in the United States. You’ll find quite a few eating joints using quinoa as the whole-grain substitute for rice and pasta or a featured menu item.
After trying it at various restaurants, I embarked on a quinoa-journey and have made several recipes using it as a key ingredients. However, I find myself making one recipe every now and then and that is my Greek-style quinoa bowl, that was inspired by the wonderful flavors of the Greek salad.
Its a light, refreshing salad with a simple lemon dressing, lots of fresh dill, cilantro and has a pleasant salty bite from the Feta cheese. Cucumbers and scallions add a little crunch to the hearty bite of this salad. I also toss in grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers, marinated mushrooms, grilled eggplant or zucchinis and mixed greens or baby spinach for different variations. It provides a complete protein and can stand alone as a luncheon or light supper. This dish can sustain for a few hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator, making it a perfect choice for bringing to work or even to an outdoor picnic.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken/vegetable stock or water
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
handful of grape tomatoes
1-2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and diced
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh dill (4-5 sprigs, stems discarded), minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (4-5 sprigs, stems discarded), minced
3-4 scallions, light green and white parts thinly sliced
fresh ground black pepper
salt, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Cooking the Quinoa
In a medium saucepan or a small pot, add the chicken stock, lemon zest and juice along with quinoa. Bring to a boil uncovered over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 mins. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Making the Dressing
In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, dill, cilantro and sallions. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Assembling the Salad
When the cooked quinoa is cooled completely, stir in the vegetables and cheese and pour the dressing over the quinoa. Toss until all the ingredients are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the quinoa salad to a bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
This quinoa salad stayed in the refrigerator for upto a week. I like to bring it to room temperature before having.