What Food Geniuses Eat for Lunch

I worked at a tiny Italian restaurant during college, and every Friday, for four years, the owner would make the same lunch: a lightly-dressed spinach salad, with four grilled shrimp and two tomato slices — as long as the tomato was “bright red and soft, not mushy.” And every Friday, for four years, I was puzzled. What Food Geniuses Eat for LunchIt wasn’t until after I left that I understood her reasoning: It took 30 seconds to throw together and she never had to devote brainpower to choosing her meal. So, in the spirit of no-brainer lunches, we asked 15 culinary experts to share what they reach for when lunchtime rolls around…

Hearty Snacks
“I am a cheese fan (my nickname in the office is actually ‘Backup Cheese,’ because I always have more than one on hand). Fittingly, one of my go-to meals is bread with cheese (ricotta, mozzarella or something else fresh and soft), prosciutto and arugula.” — Merrill Stubbs, co-founder of Food52

“My favorite lunch is smoked trout (from Trader Joe’s) on Finn Crisps with pickled anything (gherkins, cabbage, whatever is in fridge) and a schmear of mayonnaise. I don’t know how much my new office mates appreciate the stinky trout. — Jenny Rosenstrach, Dinner: A Love Story

“I toast pita, spread with mayo (Hellmann’s) and mustard (Maille Dijon), then drape with turkey and put some olive oil/lemon-ed greens on top.” — Julia Turshen, author of Small Victories

“I graze way too often — sharp cheddar and sometimes roasted almonds, plus raspberries (and then I lie to my kids and tell them I forgot to buy them) — but when I’m actually able to sit down for lunch, I have avocado toast (still make it this way) or a crispy egg with toast. I basically refuse to spend more than five minutes making lunch.” — Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen

Tasty Salads
“I try to always have a jar of homemade vinaigrette on hand, ready to be tossed onto any type of salad greens I have, sliced cucumber or as a dip for carrot sticks. Then I’ll round out the meal with a slice of peanut butter toast. To me, that’s just about perfect.” — Molly Wizenberg, Orangette

“I talk to so many people who hate salads or don’t understand my undying love, but they can be anything! Most days, it’s a bowl of arugula with herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, avocado and whatever cute things I can find in the fridge. I often put soft-boiled eggs or even frittata on my salad as well as any leftover grains, lentils, roasted vegetables, etc. Thinking outside the box is crucial to good salads I don’t resent.” — Julia Garland, Sassy Kitchen

“Cheddar, mozzarella or my favorite manchego, along with a simple arugula salad, crusty bread and cooked apples. Plus, almost always a cookie to follow.” — Suzanne Cupps, chef de cuisine at Untitled

Heroic Leftovers
“I’ll make a big batch of soup or roasted vegetables, which can serve as my lunch for a few days. Then, before eating, I’ll add greens and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to perk things up. If I’m feeling extra fancy, I’ll chop some fresh herbs like parsley, chives or cilantro and put those on top. I also like to have a second (or let’s be honest, third) cup of coffee with half-and-half for a little pick-me-up.” — Yossy Arefi, author of Sweeter of the Vine

“Beans! I always have cooked beans on hand (either Marcella or Midnight Black Bean) because they make throwing together a quick meal so easy. They can handle a lot of salt (which is never too much for me), and they’re amenable to so many treatments. I love sautéing them with onions, garlic and cumin, and then scrambling an egg in the same pan, and then tucking it all inside a warm tortilla with cheese, avocado, sour cream and hot sauce. I love beans cooked until they’re stewy and ready to be sopped up with bread. I love beans on toast. I love bean soups. I love bean salads. Beans!” — Alexandra Stafford, Alexandra’s Kitchen

Surprising Combinations
“My lunches are always based on a grain or bean. I love brown and sweet rice, chickpeas and any large heirloom bean. I spoon that into a bowl and top with toasted seeds (sunflower, black sesame or pumpkin or all three!), scallions, tamari (a thicker soy sauce), leftover veggies and sauerkraut. I always add either a crumble of goat cheese or some avocado and a generous drizzle of flax oil.” — Amy Chaplin, author of At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen

“I take full-fat cottage cheese, season it with salt, pepper and lemon and layer it beneath sliced radishes, cucumber, avocado, scallions and a soft-boiled egg. Then lots more lemon and salt and pepper on top. It’s filling, bright, delicious and has great creamy/crunchy contrast.” — Claire Saffitz, senior food editor at Bon Appetit

“My go-to is inspired by a typical Japanese breakfast: canned sardines, short grain brown rice, leftover cooked greens or roasted vegetables, sliced avocado, and sesame seeds. Equal parts soy sauce and lime juice to season. Delicious! And it’s not cupcakes for lunch.” — Shira Bocar, food editor at Martha Stewart

Quick Fixes
“I have three lunch scenarios: if I have five minutes, it’s cottage cheese with olive oil and black pepper; if I have 10 minutes, it’s steak tartare with olive oil and Parmesan; if I have 30 minutes, it’s a frittata with artichokes, spinach or kale.” Jody Williams, chef at Buvette

“One thing I always have in my kitchen is granola, and in the summer I make bircher muesli every few days. Then I finish the meal with fruit! Sliced apples with Vietnamese cinnamon sprinkled on top, a nice ripe pear or a grapefruit.” — Posie Hardwood, 600 Acres

“When I work from home, I’m guilty of throwing together less-than-ideal lunches. I had to stop keeping cereal around the house because that would end up being my meal. My favorite lunch, though, if I’m being honest, is actually a single serving Amy’s Organic Frozen Pizza, topped with canned pineapple and crushed red pepper. Or, you know, sometimes I’ll just eat the cookies I’m photographing.” — Jennifer Farley, author of The Gourmet Kitchen

Thoughts? Do you have any no-brainer lunches you love?

 

Original article by Stella Blackmon appears on A Cup of Joe
Photo of Julia Child courtesy of A Cup of Joe

 

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