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By Jenny Rosenstrach, Dinner: A Love Story
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Lunch Al Desko

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So there’s news on the Dinner: A Love Story front: I am one step closer to world domination, having taken actual, physical, tax-deductible office space outside my house, roughly two miles from my front door, and two miles plus 10 feet from my kitchen. I share a space with six other enterprising businessmen and women, all of whom you will be hearing more details about very soon, but first…priorities, i.e. lunch. Or, as Bon Appetit once coined it, Lunch Al Desko.

Given that my kitchen was always a few steps from my office (if not the de facto office itself), I never had to think too hard about my mid-day meal. There is always a hard-boiled egg in the fridge — I prepare about a half dozen on the weekend — that I could chop up and throw on a salad, or a tin of smoked trout from Trader Joe’s that I could drape on a Finn Crisp and top with gherkins or pickled anything. Usually there’s an avocado lying around that I can smash on good toast (city peeps: I’m so into that Ryeborg they sell at GCT’s new, astonishing Great Northern Food Hall). Those are my go-tos, if we’re not also counting the results of whatever baking project my kids attempted the day before, and they’ve never failed me.

Until now. Because now, NOW! I have to plan ahead, and pack ahead. I really love my co-workers, but I’m not quite at the place yet where I can sit three feet away from them eating trout or a hard-boiled egg. (Who knew I had such a proclivity towards stinky lunches?) As for the avocado toast: If you have any advice for a roadie version, that will not turn army green, I’m all ears.

My solution, at least for the time being, takes the shape of this formula: [[Trader Joe's Pre-cooked Something Or Other]] + [[Sauteed Leftovers & Vegetable Scraps]] + oil & vinegar. Longtime readers know that I’m a longtime fan of TJ’s 10-minute grains (barley and farro) and lately I’ve been picking up their shrink-wrapped, pre-cooked lentils, too. Yesterday I sautéed a handful of white mushrooms (sliced), shallots, leftover green beans, and red pepper flakes, and mixed them into my U-Konserve with feta, those lentils, some white balsamic vinegar and olive oil. That was a good one. Today, I have the tiniest bit of last night’s slow-cooked pork mixed with lentils, roasted butternut squash, and pickled shallots. Last week, my favorite so far, was the farro salad with roasted butternut squash and pepitas below. I liked it so much, I made another batch for dinner.

Sure, it means I start work a little later, but that part is canceled out by another formula: I am ten times more productive when I’m sitting next to productive people. I will drill down on the science of that later.

Farro Salad with Squash and Pepitas
This makes four side servings for dinner or 2-3 full-on lunches to take to the office.

In a medium-large bowl toss together:

-3 cups cooked farro
{If you don’t use TJ’s pre-cooked 10-minutes farro, here are cooking instructions: Add 1 cup rinsed farro and 3 cups water (or chicken stock) to a pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes. Drain.}

- 1 to 2 cups roasted butternut squash
{Heat oven to 425°F. Chop 1-2 cups roasted butternut squash and add to bowl; toss in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, dash of red pepper flakes; Roast for 15 minutes, or until squash looks golden brown around the edges.}

-1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts), chopped
-handful pepitas (to taste)
-3/4 cup feta crumbles
1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs like chives or thyme

Drizzle with light balsamic vinaigrette
{1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar whisked with 1/3 cup olive oil}


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