Let me tell you how I came about this idea for summer meal prep for salads…
Today, I came back from my music class in time for lunch. There’s something about an hour of singing that makes me ravenous. Invariably I am trying to wrap up a lot of work before leaving for class so I don’t always manage to cook lunch and keep it ready. Once I am back from class, there is a last minute mad scramble to put something together to eat.
But today, there was no mad scramble. My big bowl of salad magically came together in just 5 minutes (No, I did not ‘Swiggy’ it). It happened because I happened to have a few things prepped and ready to be tossed into the bowl. That reminded me how easy it is to meal prep a few components once during the week, so we can easily put together a light and healthy summer meal in no time. This also works great if you carry a lunchbox to work or school. All you need is 5-10 minutes in the morning to put your lunchbox together.
Indian summers are not the kind where you stay outdoors or grill or gather berries. We wait for the onset of the mango season, but that apart from that we are just about surviving the heat and trying to stay afloat. It is not the time we want to cook anything elaborate or spend too much time in the kitchen. A chilled, no-fuss salad bowl like the one I had today followed by yogurt, or ice cream is what I find appealing these days.
So here is the list of things for your summer meal prep–
Cooked Chickpeas /kabuli chana
This is a versatile ingredient that is a must stock in your refrigerator. Soak 1/2 kg of chickpeas overnight and pressure cook (or instant pot) until just cooked and not mushy. Drain the cooking liquid, wash the cooked chickpeas, drain well and store in an airtight box. This time I found a smaller variety of chickpeas that is perfect and does not loom large in salads. A handful of cooked chickpeas to your salad adds a whole lot of protein, fibre, calcium and makes your salad feel like ‘real food’. The canned variety of chickpeas or any other beans works in a pinch.
Recipe: Chickpeas, Kale and Millet Salad
Pressure cooking or roasting beets is totally hands off and easy process. Choose beets of similar size so they cook in the same time. I prefer small sized beets for meal prep so that I can peel and use one whole beet. Pressure cook for 15 minutes on sim or depending on the size of the beets, adjust the cooking time. You can also foil wrap each beet and roast it in the oven or cook them in the instant pot. Store cooked beets with their peels intact in the refrigerator. Peel, chop and add to your salad bowl. The vibrant colour of beet makes your salad pop. Cooked beets easily stay for a week in the refrigerator, making it a practical veg to meal prep.
Follow the same process as beets. Diced boiled potatoes can be added to your salad bowl or mixed with yogurt and chutneys for a delicious snack too.
Also check: Healthy Potato Salad with Rocket and Spinach
Shelled pomegranate is one of my fav ingredients to add to a salad. These juicy sweet-tart bites add so much interest and flavour to a salad. The jewel tones of pomegranate make your salad bowl visually appealing too. Buy 2-3 large pomegranates. Shell them and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Take care to remove any slightly soggy arils and membranes which could spoilt the rest of the shelled arils.
Paneer, Feta or Tofu
I have signed up for a weekly fresh paneer delivery service in our community and it has been life changing. The soft and creamy paneer is an instant protein boost to any dish, no cooking required. Isn’t that just what we want in the summer? If you are snobbish about adding paneer to salads, you can stock up on feta. Lightly sautéed or oven baked tofu is a good option to add to Asian style salads.
I simply dice up raw paneer and toss it along with other salad ingredients. Do make sure that it is from a hygienic source if you are eating paneer raw. Else, ‘blanche’ it in lightly salted boiling hot water for 2 minutes, drain thoroughly and then use.
Check out: Baked tofu with maple glaze
Micro greens or sprouts
Micro greens trays are another weekly subscription that have made my salads feel like they are out of a fancy restaurant, and not to mention all the more nutritious. We have Living Food Micro greens in Bangalore. That said, micro greens are easy to grow at home. Watch the video below.
If you think this is too much effort, then harness the high temperatures and humidity to sprout beans and seeds. Green moong, moth beans, fenugreek seeds are easy sprouting targets. Keeping a bag of sprouts in your refrigerator gives access to another healthy ingredient that can be quickly added to salads.
Toasted Seed Mix
This has become my go-to topping for almost everything I eat – from my morning yogurt bowl to oats porridge, and on salads of course. This mix was primarily made for the seedy sourdough loaf I bake at home, but I’m falling in love the versatility of this seed mix. The toasted seeds add a wonderful nutty flavour and crunch. A recipe for a similar ‘Mixed Seed Munch’ is the Healthy Fats section of my book The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian. If you have my book already, then do try it out.
This is a mix of 2-3 varieties of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, basil seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, black quinoa, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped almonds etc. In a heavy bottomed or cast iron pan, toast these seeds for 10-15 minutes on a very low flame until aromatic and well toasted. Cool completely and store in an airtight container in your pantry.
Stocking up on a few vegetables
Cucumbers and bell peppers are my go to vegetables to stock up for summer meal prep, taking barely a minute to chop and no cooking required. I love yellow bell peppers for their colour, mild flavour and sweetness. Cucumbers are also my son’s fav summer snack. He peels and slices them up, topping with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and mandatory squeeze of lemon.
With all this prepped and ready to go, my lunch time summer salad took just about 5 minutes to make. Here’s how I put together the summer salad using the components from the meal prep list given above.
For your bookmarks: 49 easy vegetarian salads for you to try
Other Salad Basics Posts That You Will Find Useful
- 11 tips for making a really good salad
- 5 easy ways to jazz up any salad
- 15 essential salad making tools
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