Beyond bored with the salad greens being trucked in to my local supermarket, I crave the young and tender greens of spring on my plate. But it will be a few weeks yet until locally grown fresh greens are available here in the Northeast, as it may be where you are, too.
Happily, salad in a jar has come to my rescue. It is hardly a new idea, as you know if you hang out on Pinterest or follow food bloggers. But I am enjoying it as a colorful way to assemble the salad ingredients currently available. Simply by breaking the usual pattern of presenting salad on a plate, instead assembling them in a sparkling, classic canning jar, has made eating a generous salad enjoyable until local greens are ready.
A salad in a jar is a visual work of art that also needs to taste good when shaken out of the jar into a bowl. (To eat a salad in a jar, you don’t cram a fork down through its multiple layers. Rather, you upend the jar over a bowl, then toss and eat its contents like the usual salad.) For this one, I started with a one-quart canning jar with a wide mouth and first spooned in the dressing.
To make this salad a complete meal, I used layers of cooked beets, lentils, roasted pepper, very thinly sliced red onion and feta cheese. Finally, for succulence and greenery, I arranged a ring of grape tomatoes, and then filled the rest of the jar with arugula. When spring greens finally do arrive, I may change the lentils to chopped hard-cooked egg, then make layers of sliced radishes and sugar-snap pea pods. And the leafy greens might become watercress. Or some baby lettuce.
As a time saver, I used the cooked beets sold in a plastic packet. You could use the lentils sold this way, too, but not ones that are canned. They are too mushy. Home-roasted peppers are best, but use them from a jar if you wish.
What makes this idea more than a gimmick is the staying power of salads packed into a jar. If you multiply the recipe, this salad will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator. This lets you open the fridge and grab a great, fresh, abundantly veggie meal to go, and to do it several days in a row.
Salad in a Jar with Lentils and Feta Cheese
1 medium orange bell pepper, halved and seeded
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Salt, to taste
Large pinch ground black pepper
1 medium (2-inch) cooked beet, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup cooked green lentils
3 very thin slices red onion
1/3 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese, about 1 1/2 oz.
5 grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups baby or wild arugula, lightly packed
Set rack near top of oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Place pepper halves cut-side down on baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes, or until skins are mostly blackened and blistered. Place peppers in small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Peel peppers and chop them into 3/4-inch pieces.
In wide-mouth 1 quart canning jar, combine oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Using fork, stir vigorously to combine them. Add beets, arranging them to cover bottom of jar. Add lentils, then chopped roasted pepper. Separate onion into rings and make layer, using as many of them as you like. Arrange feta on top of onions.
Place tomato halves in a ring, pressing cut sides against sides of jar, leaving feta uncovered in center. Fill remaining space in jar with arugula. Cover jar tightly. Salad will keep in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To serve, empty contents of jar into large bowl and, using fork, toss to combine.
Makes 1 serving.
Per serving: 471 calories, 20 g total fat (5 g saturated fat), 55 g carbohydrate, 25 g protein, 17 g dietary fiber, 535 mg sodium.