Feb 162014

My salad bar Crunch Salad

If someone were interested in measuring my overall hecticness (it’s a word), there are a few things that would be particularly telling. My email inbox level is one such indicator — under 50 means really on top of things, over 200 indicates dangerous levels of overload. My desk inbox is another — if the stack is shorter than the physical edges of the inbox, things are good. But if the towering pile of papers and clippings and bills actually wobbles, threatening at any moment to take out my coffee cup when it topples, well… you get the idea.

One could also examine my lunch for clues to my mental state. Pleasantly busy days afford the opportunity to prepare myself a healthy lunch — something involving whole grains, lean protein and plenty of fresh vegetables. Most days, to be honest, I’m lucky to carve out 20 minutes to pop over to my local Whole Foods for a tuna sandwich (and yes, a bag of chips) or a quick spin around the salad bar. They do a nice job with the salad bar — plenty of choices, including lots of organic veggies, and things are generally kept tidy and refreshed. (Importantly avoiding the insurmountable gross-out factor that can quickly develop for me at salad bars or buffets.)

At some point, I actually began referring to my typical concoction here as my “Whole Foods Crunch Salad,” and there are a few regular takers around the office and amongst my friends. Here’s how it goes: base of baby spinach, then start piling on the crunch — julienned carrots and beets, slivered white and/or red cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, a healthy sprinkling of cashews or peanuts. A pinch of cilantro, if they have it, plus spoonfuls of chickpeas and one of the quinoa salad options. For dressing, sometimes I use the salad bar balsamic vinaigrette; more often I bring it back to the office to toss and season with salt and pepper, olive oil, fresh lime juice, and the merest hint of fish sauce. It’s a quick dressing that works wonders on even the most basic of greens.

This is obviously a salad that can be reproduced at home. But honestly, I’m much more likely to make it at the salad bar, where someone else has done all the prep. And given my crazy schedule this week, combined with the very welcome, early preview of Spring we’re having in my part of the world, I see plenty of Crunch Salad lunches in my immediate future.

Pairing: Light White Wines

As I’m thinking about this article, I realize that there are wines that I think of as “salad wines.” For me, these are typically: white, crisp, easy on the oak, appealing if not particularly complex, and relatively inexpensive. In other words, tasty and enjoyable, but not necessarily something I’d pair with a dish that is more substantial — in flavor or effort — than a quick salad. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately:

Louis Jadot 2011 Mâcon-Villages ($13). Bright and easy to like, with ripe apple, lemon curd and light toast notes. Find it!

Rodney Strong 2011 Chardonnay Sonoma County ($15). Nice value here, with apple, tropical citrus and melon, along with moderate touches of oak and spice. Find it!

Oxford Landing 2012 Chardonnay South Australia ($9). Easy and totally quaffable, with crisp nectarine and melon notes that linger on the silky finish. Find it!

Cantina di Soave 2011 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico ($15). Crisp Asian pear, touch of fig, touch of mineral. Could also see this with a seafood salad or takeout Mu Shu vegetables. Find it!

Martin Codax 2011 Albariño Rias Baixas ($15). Softer than usual, with tart acidity accenting white peach and citrus flavors. Easy. Find it!

Jean-Luc Colombo 2011 Côtes du Rhône Blanc Les Abeilles ($12). Lush and fleshy, with peach and apricot and a light mineral touch. Find it!

Line 39 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Lake County ($10). Easy, crisp, grassy, ripe fleshy citrus, touch of grapefruit. Plenty of it about, too. Find it!

Matua 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($13). Offering pretty lime, lime curd, plenty of citrus peel intensity, and a juicy finish. Hard to resist, especially at this price. Find it!

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