Back when I worked in an office downtown, I would frequently pay eight dollars for what was, upon reflection, a fairly mediocre salad. Part of the reason for the mediocrity was my own panic-induced ordering (egg and mango: never again), but most of it really came down to that age-old arithmetic of convenience plus instant gratification plus a meeting in twenty minutes plus whoops, I forgot to pack my own lunch from home again.
Now that I work out of my spare bedroom—which is about 80% of the way towards becoming a fabulous home office; total makeover photos to come soon but let me just say right now that navy blue walls are the best—I have had the delightful experience of discovering that I can make pretty much anything I want in my very own kitchen, particularly as no-one is going to leave a passive-aggressive note afterwards requesting that I please try not to burn the microwave popcorn.
(Two things while I think of them: first of all, when I was at boarding school in England, there was a girl who used to use the kettle in the sixth form common room to BOIL HER EGGS, by which I mean she would put them inside the kettle, pour some water in, then turn the whole thing on to boil—woe betide you if you made tea afterwards for yes, it would taste of sulfur—and second of all, when I worked in my old office, there was a person who would, without fail, heat up something in the microwave that smelled.....and I wish I could think of a better description for it than this.......like the warmed-up vomit of Satan, presuming Satan had overdosed on raw chicken that had been left on the kitchen counter in a moldy gym sock for four days. It was quite lovely, I assure you. I used to have to actually leave the office building when this happened.)
Anyway, now that I work from home, I certainly have my fair share of lunches that are constucted from an assortment of various crackers, condiments, and random jars of shelf-stable stuff, but I have also discovered the divine pleasure of making a salad in my own kitchen every day, a salad that is both healthy and slightly naughty, does not have to be ordered under pressure and eaten with a plastic fork from a plastic container, and—most importantly—does not contain the dreaded combination of mango and egg.
I have been working from home for a grand total of 33 days and I have eaten this salad—or some variation of it, anyway— for maybe 25. Here is how I do it:
First of all, you need some lettuce. I have become obsessed with butter lettuce, and I have found what I think might be the world's best butter lettuce at....Costco, of all places. It comes two heads to a pack, and it is so fresh that it still has the roots attached. The whole thing is not even three bucks, and I usually get four salads from two heads.
Maybe this is a little wacky or whatever, but I have recently started eschewing salad dressing. Instead, I have started putting straight balsamic vinegar on my salads, and before you get super grossed out by that, it has to be a very particular balsamic vinegar, namely this one from Trader Joe's:
I could pour this balsamic vinegar onto a spoon and eat it straight. As you can see from this picture, I am already running low. As you can see from the picture above, I like to pour it straight onto the lettuce, rather than waiting to add the other toppings. This balsamic vinegar is so incredible that I swear to god, you do not need any other kind of dressing on your salad. Actually, you probably do not even need any other toppings on your salad, but that would be kind of weird to just eat lettuce and vinegar for lunch, very Ally McBeal of you, so next I say we add some more stuff:
Here are some fresh figs and some chopped up strawberries. Sometimes I use fresh figs and chopped up strawberries but sometimes I don't have fresh figs and chopped up strawberries, and in that case I use whatever fruit I have. Fruit on a salad is one of life's greatest pleasures, and if you disagree, then this is probably not the salad for you. Today I had no fresh figs or chopped up strawberries, so I threw some blueberries on instead and it was incredible. Frequently, I also add dried cherries.
After that, I add the cheese. This, needless to say, is the best part.
This is goat cheese, because I like the way it tastes with the strawberries. But sometimes I do not have goat cheese—are you sensing a theme here? I am really bad at grocery shopping—and then I use crumbled blue cheese instead. The crumbled blue cheese goes really well with the dried cherries, FYI, but then I think crumbled blue cheese goes well with anything, maybe even raw chicken that has been left on the kitchen counter in a moldy gym sock for four days. Okay, maybe not that.
Finally, for the pièce de résistance of my salad, I add some nuts. My nuts of choice are these incredible candied walnuts which are about five thousand dollars a bag at Trader Joe's, but you only need to add them sparingly to get a fantastic crunch.
So there we go, that is my salad, and it is kind of the best thing in the world.
This is what it looks like close up:
And this is what it looks like with my diet ginger ale next to it, because I am going through a brief diet ginger ale phase right now, except it has lasted, like, two years, so maybe it's not so brief after all. I think I like diet ginger ale because it reminds me of traveling. I always order ginger ale on the plane.
Anyway, I know no one cares what I had for lunch—coming up next: let me tell you the scintillating story of what I dreamed last night!—but trust me, if you ever need a delicious salad idea, remember that butter lettuce + balsamic vinegar + fruit + cheese + nut is always a winner, no matter the combination. Do you have a favorite salad that you could eat for 25 days out of 33? I mean, it's not like you're going to be able to persuade me that it's better than mine, but you could try.