Lynda Balslev: A perfect work-from-home lunch
I work from home, and while it’s how I’ve always worked, it still presents a few challenges. Namely, structure and discipline. One trick I rely on is to schedule a lunch break. Easy to say, but the ritual of leaving the desk, moving into another room, and, most important, stepping away from the screen, can be difficult.
I find if I have prepped a lunch ahead of time, it reinforces the lunchtime ritual and provides incentive to move out of the bedroom or living room-cum-office and take a break. I don’t have to be bothered with deciding what to eat at the last minute, or daydreaming about it throughout the morning, so when I am suddenly famished and likely to graze and snack to quickly fill the void, I can reach instead for my pre-packed lunch.
This is a perfect do-ahead salad, easily stored in a container — or portioned into separate containers. Once the ingredients are prepped, it comes together quickly and doesn’t mind a little refrigerator time. It can pass for lunch or dinner, so make a full portion and enjoy it over a day or two.
I have made renditions of this salad for years. The ingredients are flexible and welcome leftovers. I like to use shrimp, shredded cooked chicken, strips of steak — even tofu can step in as a substitute. This recipe includes my favorite vegetables — brightly blanched broccolini florets, crispy carrots and juicy, cool cucumbers add sweetness, texture and color to this dish. Red bell peppers, sugar snap peas and bean sprouts are also great additions.
A sweet, salty, spicy peanut dressing, bright with lime, is the perfect binder to the salad. I make a little extra, so there’s more to drizzle over individual servings or to use as a dip for veggies (which is a perfect snack for your mid-afternoon break).
Vietnamese Shrimp and Broccolini Bowl
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 pound large (18/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact optional
3/4 pound broccolini
8 ounces stir-fry rice noodles
1 medium carrot, cut in matchsticks
1/2 English cucumber, seeded, cut in matchsticks
3 scallions, ends trimmed, white and green parts sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender sprigs, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Whisk all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Let the shrimp poach until bright in color and opaque through the centers, about 4 minutes. Drain and blot the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Lightly season with salt and set aside.
Cut the florets from the broccolini, 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length. Reserve the stalks for another use.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook until al dente, per package instructions. Add the broccolini florets to the cooking water and stir until brightened in color, about 15 seconds more. Drain the noodles and broccolini at once and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain thoroughly.
Combine the rice noodles, broccolini, carrot, cucumber and scallions in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Add the shrimp, cilantro, mint and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds and stir again to coat, adding more dressing to your taste. (The salad made be prepared 1 day in advance of serving and refrigerated in an airtight container.) Serve garnished with additional cilantro and sesame seeds.
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area.
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