Nutritionists tell us that if you want to eat well, simply aim to eat a rainbow every day.
Heaven only knows that I love my reds and whites (as in wine, tomato anything and every kind of starch and cheese under the sun) but I need to occasionally remind myself that there are a lot of other delicious colors out there to eat.
Lunchtime is when I usually crave soup or a salad, so it’s easy then to see how many colors I can sneak into my meal. I am the least picky eater in my household, so this is the ideal time for me to experiment without haggling or hassles.
Making lunch for just one or two is what I am usually doing around 11:30 a.m. each day — and any leftovers are handed off by mid-afternoon, allowing me a clean slate for the following day (and a wake of grateful recipients in my neighborhood and at school).
Yesterday I looked around my kitchen and I found all kinds of beautiful colors awaiting me.
Tiny little bell peppers, fresh cilantro, baby spinach, and leftover cooked brown rice were all at the ready in the fridge. Mangoes luxuriated on the counter at their zenith of ripeness.
Within 5 minutes of feeling that first hunger pang, I had lunch ready to go.
All I had to do was open a can of beans, dice some peppers and mango, warm the cooked rice, toss it together with a dressing, and voila! — a killer lunch.
Now for a little back story so you too can whip this up in no time.
Every superhero has his or her magic weapon, and I too have mine.
I will give you a couple hints as to what it might be.
It’s found in the refrigerated section of one of my favorite stores.
Yep, Cilantro Dressing from Trader Joe’s.
What’s in it?
Along with the cilantro, a little mayo, Anaheim chiles, pumpkin seeds and Cotija cheese, I suspect they’ve found a way to bottle the magic of lightning bugs, summer picnics and your first kiss.
This green elixir is fresh, herby, tangy, creamy and like smelling salts for your jaded palate — and one of the only dressings I ever buy and am never without (I even take a bottle with me to driveable vacation rentals because in a pinch it can elevate almost any savory dish).
Ah, sweet Cilantro Dressing. Tacos, rice bowls, sandwiches with grilled pork or chicken and avocado, a dipping sauce for veggies — a million ways to enjoy it.
For this salad, I tossed the mangoes with a little Sriracha, and then all the ingredients with this dressing. I gave it a proper salt and pepper talking to and then I was good to go.
Had I been so fortunate to have some freshly grilled shrimp on hand, this would have been a spectacular addition.
Alas, no such luck. Even without it though, it all smelled so delicious as I pulled it together in the bowl.
As luck would have it, my postwoman Joey was coming up to the mailbox as I was pulling it all together. I walked out to get the mail and we got to talking. Remembering my substantial bowl of this inside, I asked her if she would like a brown rice bowl to go.
(I love my mail people. They always have my back — holding my mail when necessary, alerting me to goings-on in the hood, and Joey, one of my semi-regular deliverers, always offers my dog a biscuit and a pat.)
“Sure, I will take some,” she chirped happily, perhaps surprised by the prospect of an early lunch offering.
Try this bowl with whatever you have on hand — leftover grains of any kind, black beans and any veggies that are cilantro-friendly (tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, fresh corn, or squash would all be a good place to start).
I particularly loved how the sweet-spiciness of the Sriracha-tinged mangoes breathed new life into the dish, and the peppers offered a satisfying crunch. The brown rice and black beans added heft and protein; consequently, just a small bowl would have filled me up for hours (the second mini-bowl was just gluttony).
Eating all these veggies, mango and beans made me feel a bit healthier and a little less guilty for having had a homemade chocolate buttermilk doughnut (with dark chocolate ganache, no less!) for breakfast.
Make this salad and tell me you don’t feel great afterwards — sated but not stuffed with a heady infusion of vitamins and minerals coursing through your grateful body.
No pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, but nothing to sneeze at, either.
While you’re at it, might I suggest you share some with a friend? Nothing says “I appreciate you” more than the surprise of a delivered homemade lunch.