Here’s my approach to weekly lunch prep, which always includes a type of salad or “bowl”:
1) Choose a flavor profile (Mexican? Mediterranean? Thai?).
2) Stock up or assess where I’m at with ingredients (if it’s Mexican, I’m gonna need black beans and jalapenos, for example).
3) Cook or prep necessary components to throw together a salad/bowl every morning before work.
More often than not, I choose Mediterranean. I adore the types of ingredients required for a traditional Italian antipasto plate, Greek salad, or shawarma bowl: grilled veggies, creamy feta cheese, hummus, crunchy cucumbers, fruity olive oil. The keys to making a successful Mediterranean bowl are combining a few pantry basics like olives or artichokes with fresh veggies or greens, plus a protein. Drizzle all of it with olive oil and something acidic like lemon or balsamic, and you’re set for lunchtime all week.
For this combo, I chose my current go-to protein, which is chicken thighs seasoned heavily in salt and pepper and fried in olive oil, but you can go with chickpeas or HB eggs for a simpler (or vegetarian) approach. I also created a faux tabbouleh with quinoa and chopped parsley. Some mint or dill would be nice in this too.
- 1 raw, boneless chicken thigh
- 1/2 large cucumber (or 1 small)
- 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
- 1 small handful curly parsley, finely chopped.
- 1/4 red onion
- 3-4 kalamata olives
- 4-5 slivers sundried tomato
- 2 tablespoons hummus
- 1/2 lemon
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted pinenuts
- salt and pepper
- Prepare your chicken. Heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Season chicken thigh heavily with salt and pepper. Fry each side in olive oil over high heat for 2 minutes, until browned. Cover pan, turn heat to medium-low and cook for additional 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through. Should have a golden-brown crust, and be irresistibly crispy. Remove from heat.
- Prepare your quinoa according to package directions. Combine 1/2 cup cooked quinoa with chopped parsley and set aside.
- Peel and slice cucumber into halves or quarters. If I’m feeling fancy, I slice out the core too.
- I like to soak red onion in vinegar, so if you’ve got the time, drop the whole 1/4 onion into a cup of white vinegar or cold water to “pickle”. After a few minutes, remove and slice into half moons.
- Now you’re ready to assemble. I like to make little piles, to be combined whilst eating with the hummus, olives, and pine nuts, but you can also layer or toss it all together, depending on your preference. Pile the cucumbers together with the red onion into a bowl. Slice the chicken thigh into pieces, place next to the cucumbers, and dollop the hummus on top. Last, you’ve got the quinoa tabbouleh, which I like to garnish with the olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
- Sprinkle the whole thing with pine nuts, drizzle on a couple tablespoons of olive oil, squeeze half your lemon over, and pack away for later, or dig in immediately.
P.S. One of my absolute favorite guides to Mediterranean cooking is Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest (vegetarian, but if you’re like me, you could add roast chicken, ground beef, or poached salmon to any of the recipes with excellent results I think).