by Lauren Nixon
Raíces EcoCulture Volunteer and local FoodCorps Service Member
I’ve never met a mason jar I didn’t like. Really. I have a section in my pantry that is devoted specifically to mason jars. When I’m cruising on my bike, I can often hear the delicious clink and clank of mason jars in my bike basket. Mason jars are my kryptonite. A couple of weeks ago, I elicited a few stares and looks from some TSA agents at an airport when they had to remove and “inspect” a mason jar containing quinoa and grated beets dressed with a chive sauce that was nestled inside of my suitcase. Hey, I may be the weirdo in the TSA line, but I’m the weirdo who A) doesn’t have a grumbling tummy on a long flight B) was able to avoid the astronomical food prices at the airport and C) is able to enjoy healthy, homemade food while away from home.
I’m a big, big advocate of the brown bag lunch—without the brown bag, though. Packing your lunch allows you to create flavor profiles that work for your needs, create healthy, additive and chemical-free meals, save an incredible amount of money, and reduce the waste that is often a result of eating out. Reducing your waste can be pretty easy and includes just a teensy bit of planning ahead. If you’re packing your lunch (or breakfast or dinner or snack) to go, throw the contents into a mason jar, pack utensils from home, and make sure to tuck a hankie or cloth napkin into your bag for cleaning up any messes. Super easy.
Enter the mason jar salad. It’s versatile and insanely quick. Just chop, grate, and toss in your ingredients of choice and you’re good to go. My latest salad included a smorgasbord of vegetables that are all from NJ and NY farmers and farmers markets—chard from the New Brunswick Community Urban Farm, beets from North Slope Farm (found at the West Windsor Community Farmers Market), and spring radishes from Great Road Farm (found at the West Windsor Community Farmers Market, as well). The Jerusalem artichokes, black radishes, and carrots were all from vendors from the Union Square Greenmarket.
This particular salad is really just a mish-mosh of ingredients from my refrigerator. That’s the thing that I love about salads—a few bits and bobs from your fridge can take you pretty far and provide you with a good meal. You don’t need a recipe. You know what you like. Nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, dried and fresh fruit, chopped herbs and chopped hard-boiled eggs, fermented vegetables, and proteins of your choosing are all welcome additions.
As for salad dressings, I typically just shake together some apple cider vinegar, sea salt, raw honey, and extra virgin olive oil (yes, I shake it in a mason jar) and call it a day. But certain meals ask for a dressing that’s a bit more involved and complex. This tahini-thyme dressing is herby and earthy, creamy and rich, and excellent on thick, bitter greens. I used the lovely, fragrant thyme that Raíces is growing at the moment, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
1.5 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp tahini (I made my own by blitzing a few handfuls of sesame seeds in a blender—a really cheap option—but feel free to purchase tahini if you wish)
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp salt (add more if desired)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup purified water
2 tsp raw honey (maple syrup for a vegan option)
Whiz all of the ingredients in a blender and enjoy. This makes around 2 cups of dressing. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge in a mason jar, of course.