Refreshing “Un-salad Salad” Lunches for Hot Weather

This guest post is from Primal Kitchen: A Family Grokumentary:

In my family’s corner of the world, charmingly moderate spring temperatures were almost totally skipped this year! We went from winter weather to summer weather in the blink of an eye.

While one of my favorite ways to pack real food lunches in wintertime is to integrate some leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for reheating, the spike in temperature tends to make reheating a lot less appetizing. I’ve had to recalibrate our menus these days – including packed lunches – to incorporate more summer-friendly options.

These “un-salad” salad options are handy and delicious ways to get add lots of fresh veggies in you diet through unconventional salad adaptions! If you’d like to add other fresh vegetables, you certainly can but remember: not all vegetables do as well as spaghetti squash, broccoli slaw, and kale when sitting in a dressing overnight or even for a few hours. It may be useful to chop your other veggies and store them in a separate container to add to the rest of the salad immediately upon serving. Remember that vinaigrettes and other dressings, usually being acidic, are best stored in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers.

Here are my 3 favorite basic “un-salad” salads:

  1. Spaghetti squash “pasta” salad: Spaghetti squash can be halved and baked – around 400 F for 45 minutes – at nighttime. Once it has completely cooled, use a fork to scoop out and discard the seeds, and then to flake the meat of the squash into spaghetti strands into a bowl. Toss the cooled spaghetti squash strands with the ingredients of your choice. Chill for a few hours or overnight, allowing flavors to meld.
  2. Slaw salad: Broccoli slaw, carrot slaw, cabbage slaw and other readily available veggie slaws can be found most grocery stores’ produce sections. These come together with a protein and a dressing to make a deliciously crunchy and satisfying salad. Firmer options like broccoli and carrot slaws will hold up better to the dressing you make.
  3. Kale salad: Unlike most greens, kale holds up very well to many hours in a vinaigrette; where others would wilt, kale continues to marinate and soak up flavors while maintaining its original, deliciously toothsome bite.

The addition of dressings and other flavorful ingredients to the salad bases can deepen tempting flavor combinations as the salad “marinates” while chilling.

Here are 3 ways to work the added flavor profile of your un-salad salads’ base:

  1. Asian salad additions: Blend 1/4 tsp. each of fresh ginger and garlic with rice vinegar, tamari, and macadamia oil or cold-pressed sesame oil. Toss this vinaigrette with some whole cashews and chopped fresh basil and/or cilantro. If desired, add a chilled protein of choice, like pre-cooked diced chicken.
  2. Italian salad additions: Blend balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a quarter clove of garlic, and salt and black pepper. Add some marinated vegetables like olives, fire roasted peppers, and sun dried tomatoes. If desired, add diced mozzarella, prosciutto, uncured pepperoni, and/or other protein of choice.
  3. Spicy sweet pistachio additions: Blend equal parts olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar, honey, fresh squeezed orange juice, and traditional hot sauce. Add crushed pistachios and your protein of choice.

The beauty of having three salad bases with three flavorful addition options is the adaptability of the menu according to what sounds good and what you have stocked.  Add some more fresh vegetable crudites or fresh seasonal fruit alongside your chilled protein-added “un-salad”, and you have a perfectly compelling summertime meal.

Now that I think about the possibilities, a kale “un-salad” with chilled shrimp and spicy sweet pistachio additions is sounding pretty good!

How do you adapt for hot weather with chilled packed lunch options?

The Family Grokumentarian is the author of Primal Kitchen: A Family Grokumentary. After switching her family to a whole foods diet in the summer of 2010, over time she found herself in a whole new world of CrossFit, home curing and fermentation, veggie gardening, hot yoga, and purchasing grassfed beef and pastured pork in bulk from local farmers. Her inspiration for persevering in natural living comes from her two daughters: her 6 year old kindergartener, and her 3 year old preschooler, who has sensory processing disorder and a speech delay.

2 Responses to Refreshing “Un-salad Salad” Lunches for Hot Weather

  • Kim says:

    Using those heartier bases is such a good idea, so you can make up your salad the night before! I never thought about that, but will put it into action right away.


  • What a brilliant post! Salad is so much more than lettuce, and you’ve given us a wonderful guide to packing our “un-salads” full of flavor and nutrients. Thank you!!


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