As a graphic designer, I want my ‘brown bag’ lunch to taste and look visually delicious. Otherwise, I’m likely to toss it in the garbage and pay for a fresher option from a restaurant. Such actions eventually add up to plenty of regret and an empty wallet. Learning to pack lunches take time and practice. When lunch containers reveal a salad of crispy lettuce and colorful, layered ingredients or a fragrant soup waiting to be heated in the microwave, my wallet stays full.
The initial inspiration for packing lunches come from bento boxes with separate containers or compartments. The separate containers help maintain the freshness of the meal (good for hot and cold recipes). Another bento-style lunch is creating a meal in one bowl, in which the ingredients harmoniously enhance each other.
The faintly fragrant star anise-scented quinoa and the sweetness of the oranges are a classic culinary pairing for duck (Craig Samuel, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Peaches Restaurant taught me that lesson). It’s a creative salad that make take-out lunches look undesirable. If making this salad for lunch the next day, use dark greens, such as dinosaur or tuscan kale, and toss with the orange vinaigrette. The acid from the citrus and vinegar softens greens overnight or within a few hours.
Since this salad has duck and quinoa, it’s the protein needed to fuel an afternoon at work. It’s also a light enough meal to prevent the next few hours from becoming tiresome. When packed the night before, the flavors marinate together to create a harmonious lunch, and the colors of the ingredients are a visual delight for a creative and productive workday.
Star Anise Quinoa with Oranges and Smoked Duck Salad
- 1 cup uncooked red, black and/or white quinoa
- 2 whole star anise
- 3 oranges
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
- Crushed red pepper; to taste
- 5 oz. mizuna, arugula, spinach, tuscan kale or other type of green*
- 1 small red onion; thinly sliced
- 12 to 16 oz. smoked duck; thinly sliced (or thinly sliced beef)
- 1 small garlic clove; minced
- ½ cup olive oil; to taste
- 3 tbsp. rice vinegar; to taste
- 1 tsp. honey
- Equipment: 4 lunch containers
- *Note: If immediately eating the salad, delicate greens can be used.
- Follow the package directions for preparing and cooking quinoa. Except add star anise, the zest of one orange, sea salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper to the boiling water. When the quinoa is done, discard the star anise. Place quinoa aside in a refrigerator to cool.
- Using a knife, gently cut away the zest and the pith from 2 oranges. Cut into slices. Place aside.
- Toss black pepper, greens and red onions in a separate bowl. Place aside.
- To make the vinaigrette: Juice the zested orange into a medium bowl. Whisk garlic, sea salt, black pepper, crushed pepper, olive oil, rice vinegar and honey into the orange juice. Set aside.
- To pack the salad for lunch the next day: Toss dark and tough greens with half the vinaigrette. Divide greens into the bottom half of four separate lunch containers or plates. Place quinoa in the other bottom half of the containers. Top with orange and smoke duck slices. Drizzle the second half of the vinaigrette over the salad. Tightly seal and enjoy.
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