Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Work-at-Home Lunch Dilemma

Since I started working at home three years ago, my biggest challenge hasn't been finding reasonably-priced health insurance, or finding ways to keep from feeling isolated. It's been "What to have for lunch?" It has to be quick. After all, when you work for yourself, time is money. It has to be nutritious. The big advantage of working at home is the flexibility and balance you can maintain in your life so you can better take care of yourself. It has to be satisfying. You don't want to keep hopping up during the afternoon looking for snacks (see "time is money" and taking care of yourself).

Over the winter, I find myself having soup a lot. My best laid plans went awry this year and I mostly ate canned soup rather than the homemade I'd envisioned (will have to share my easy chicken-escarole soup recipe when the temperature changes). Doesn't work so well in the summer, unless I'm on the ball enough to make a cold soup (one of my favorites: the fennel soup from the book Under the Tuscan Sun. Can be served hot or cold.) One strategy that works year-round is the creative use of leftovers. In the winter, I use them to make quesadillas. Sometimes I just reheat them as is. Now that it's finally hot here in New England, I've been doing a lot of salads lately.

Here's how it worked recently: Monday for dinner, I grilled some wild coho salmon I couldn't resist at "Whole Paycheck" (as my friend Doug calls it) and served it with potatoes coated with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary. (The rosemary taste wasn't as strong as I'd like. Is there a trick to it?) I also made a Marcella Hazan broccoli recipe where you dip the steamed or boiled florets in egg, then dredge in plain bread crumbs and fry in vegetable oil. On Tuesday, we got more green beans for our CSA share, and I still had last week's in the fridge! We also got cherry tomatoes this week. So yesterday's lunch was a green salad (lettuce and cukes also from CSA) with the leftover salmon and broccoli. Today, I steamed last week's share of the green beans, cooled them with cold water and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Then I added the leftover potatoes (cubed), halved cherry tomatoes, capers, Italian tuna, and I even found some small (Niciose?) olives lurking in the back of the fridge. In both cases the dressing was olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. I'm not a fan of creamy dressings by and large, so it's mostly oil and red wine vinegar and an occasionally Dijon vinaigrette. If I use balsamic, it's usually a small portion mixed in with the red wine vinegar. Otherwise too sweet for my taste. I do love using lemon juice in place of vinegar, especially refreshing in the summer, and with fennel. But I digress. Here is what we in our family call "Vera's Dressing," named after its creator, a gourmand friend of our father and excellent cook:
Vera's Dressing
1 part olive oil (I like extra virgin, but my Mom prefers regular olive oil)
1 part red wine vinegar (the important thing is the acidity -- I look for 6 or 7%)
1 teaspoon salt
liberal grindings of pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

I must admit that my motivation for writing, more than wanting to share a particularly satisfying lunch, is the hopes that readers will give me some new ideas! I'm not someone who can have yogurt for lunch. That's dessert. Or the snack you end up having mid-afternoon. So those of you that work at home, please share your favorites!


Susan Z. said...

Did you use fresh rosemary for the potatoes? I also mince my rosemary before tossing it with the potaotes and I use lots of it--maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons although I never measured it.

I have been part time stay at home mom for 18 years and relish mylunches alone. My favorite is an omlette. Mushroom, asparagus and some soft cheese like brie or brie spread is my favorite. Since no one else in my family likes omlettes, I consider it my yummy secret. Also have you tried truffle salt? You can get it at Williams Sonoma. It's pricey, but worth every penney.

Paula said...

Thanks, Susan! It sounds like I need to chop up the rosemary first AND use more of it. I used dried b/c I was too lazy to go out in the garden with my flashlight. Do you think fresh is better?