Last week, I spilled a jar—an entire jar—of balsamic vinaigrette on the subway. I spent the rest of the commute straddling the oil slick, fielding groans and whispered complaints from fellow riders. By the time I reached the office, I smelled of an Italian deli, and worse, I was left with a lump of sad, undressed greens for lunch. In defeat, I turned to my wiser office-lunching comrades who introduced me to the now-infamous jar salad.
Probably born in the depths of Pinterest during the Mason Jar Craze of 2011, the jar salad is the most useful, albeit overwhelmingly twee, trick in the desk lunch arsenal. With the proper technique, you can combine and store all the components of a standard salad—including the dressing—in one jar, until you're ready to eat. (Here's how to master the homemade vinaigrette.)
The trick is to use the least absorbent components of the salad to create a barrier between the dressing and the more delicate leaves and toppings. Start with the dressing as the base layer, followed by grains, legumes, and hard vegetables like cooked potatoes, beets, and carrots. Next, add your proteins—anything from cheese to meats to tofu. Then throw in more delicate vegetables and fruits like tomatoes and strawberries. Finally, add in your greens: Kale, romaine, and other sturdy greens work best. Top with nuts, seeds, and other crunchy add-ons—like roasted chickpeas and tortilla chips—and seal the jar.
Come lunchtime, shake the contents of the jar into a bowl. You’ll end up with a perfectly layered salad with crisp greens on the bottom and dressing to top it all off.
Photos: James Ransom