Introducing the Chef Mike Salad, the easiest office lunch there ever was

close-up of salad with cubed sweet potato, goat cheese, beans, and greens with vinaigrette
Photo: Emma Terhaar, Graphic: Libby McGuire

Personally, I like hearty, big boy salads. Similar to drinking a breakfast smoothie, it feels good to get some nutrition in quickly and efficiently, and a big ol’ salad allows me to get a day’s worth of veggies down in one go. Aren’t salads great? Now, how would you feel about a semi-warm, knife-and-fork salad that you can make with just a microwave?

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Before I became a restaurant cook, I briefly wrote a blog for a small company. I spent my lunch breaks strolling to a nearby grocery store, buying odds and ends, and making my lunch in the office kitchenette. This experience proved to me that you can make a tasty salad with just a microwave and a reasonably stocked fridge and pantry. So let “Chef Mike” (henceforth Chef Mic) do the work for you! Here’s a simple formula for a satisfying microwave salad, and two examples of salads I made while I was recently pet-sitting and didn’t feel up to cooking in someone else’s kitchen.

Listed below are the basic categories you’ll want to include in your salad. Keep in mind this formula is just a jumping-off point, and if you don’t have anything that fulfills one of the categories, you can simply skip it!

Greens

There are the standard salad greens like romaine, iceberg, arugula, bib lettuce, radicchio, endive, spinach, and kale, but you can also use finely shredded cabbage, leafy herbs like basil or chives, chopped-up carrot tops, or you can even go out and pick some dandelion leaves. Use whatever you have lying around and try your best to tear up or chop up the greens in a way that’s compatible with the rest of the salad.

Cooked veggies

Use anything you can find in the fridge! Things like asparagus, broccoli, peppers, Brussels sprouts, and green beans steam easily in the microwave, but you can also quickly cook sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, and other heartier veggies as well. The trick is to slice the vegetables with intention and to steam them in short intervals to avoid overcooking. In the green bean salad below, I sliced the green beans into somewhat small pieces so they’d cook quickly in the microwave. I placed the green bean pieces in a bowl, added a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt, covered with a damp paper towel, and heated them for 30 seconds. That’s all it took! For the sweet potatoes, I cut even smaller cube-shaped pieces and microwaved them slowly with a tablespoon of water and damp paper towel to cover, and checked them for doneness every 30 seconds.

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Something chewy, creamy, or mushy

Think cheese, tahini, avocado, beans, dried fruits, a soft-boiled egg, olives, tapenade, hummus, and other veggie spreads.

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Some added crunch

Try nuts, seeds, French’s onion toppers, wontons, tortilla chips, granola, crunched crackers, croutons, and/or anything pickled.

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I will leave the dressing up to you, but I will say that I think nothing beats EVOO, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Comment below, and let me know what eclectic salads you and Chef Mic come up with.

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DISCUSSION

pandagirl123
pandagirl123

The dressing are the part I mess up on. None of my dressings every come out the way I want them too. I hate store bought dressing, but there are a couple of great ones I’ve had at restaurants that I’ve try to replicate and it never works. One was a creamy balsamic and the other was a creamy garlic burgundy dressing. Any thoughts?