Working Lunch

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Tomorrow, I start my new job. It’s a “big girl” job in an office in downtown Toronto, which means a new, professional wardrobe (hooray!), a daily commute that will hopefully not be too much of a challenge, and a new work environment. I’m anticipating a period of transition as I navigate my way through the working world beyond the confines of my living room, my place of work, if you will, for the last eight years. I don’t think the 9-to-5 schedule will be hard to get used to because of all those times I forced myself to keep regular working hours even when it was so tempting to sleep in a little later, but I do expect to struggle with one aspect of the new job: lunch.

Yes, I intend to pack a lunch every day. Though it’s tempting to start spending money like it’s water running through my fingers (and, believe me, the wardrobe shopping spree last weekend kind of felt that way), I know I can’t be too careless about my finances. Sure, this is a good job with a nice starting salary. On the other hand, I’m coming out of 13 years of post secondary education (yes, you read that correctly), and mama’s got some student loan bills to pay, so that brand new bag is going to have to wait just a little bit longer. If all goes to plan, I can save myself a nice chunk of change by not eating out everyday.

So, what’s the big deal? My plan seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, maybe not. Mainly, I expect to be tired at the end of the work day. Like I said, I don’t think the schedule itself will be the problem, but a packed commute during rush hour–something I’ve never experienced before in my life–could wear me down pretty quickly. Despite my fears, though, I think I’ve found a solution in leftovers.

If you’ ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember me waxing poetic about the virtues of leftovers a few months ago. Now that my new job is beginning, I’m feeling a renewed respect for leftovers, especially the kind that tastes delicious when made fresh and are even better the next day. So, today, I want to share with you a leftover lunch that is bound to make it into my rotation several times this summer: poached squid and green bean salad.

Poached squid and bean salad components

This is a salad that already makes me swoon because of how surprising and delicious it is. The crunch of the almonds with the tender squid, snappy green beans and a touch of heat from tabasco creates a delightful and refreshing summer dinner. Moreover, it’s perfect for a leftover lunch for the following reasons: 1) it’s quick to make, which means that I can throw it together without too much of a struggle after a long, hard day, 3) it requires minimal cooking, which means that your kitchen won’t feel like the inside of a hot oven when you’re done preparing, and 3) it keeps well in the fridge. What’s not to like about that?

Poached Squid and Green Bean Salad

Recipe adapted from Barton Seaver’s For Cod or Country: Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking. 

Serves 4 as a light dinner or 2 as an Elaine Benes-style “big salad.”

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped

salt

1 lb green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1-inch pieces

1 lb whole squid (frozen works well)

2 tbsp yogurt

Juice of one lemon

Tabasco sauce

1. Place the olive oil and chopped almonds in a small saucepan over low heat and cook until the almonds just begin to brown, about 5-10 minutes depending on your stove. Set aside to cool.

2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil. Drop the green beans in the pot for 30 seconds, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and leave them to cool on a baking sheet, reserving the cooking water. Instead of shocking the beans with ice water, leave them to cool gradually. This reduces the cooking time, preserves the colour and gives them their characteristic snap.

3. Slice the squid bodies into thin rings and cut the tentacles into thin strips. Add the squid rings to the reserved green bean cooking water and cook over low heat, stirring every now and then, until the squid is white and stiffened, about 4 minutes. Drain and discard the cooking water and set aside.

4. Make the dressing by combining the oil and nuts, yogurt, lemon juice and a few generous splashes of Tabasco sauce. Season with a small pinch of salt.

5. Toss the ingredients together and serve immediately or chilled.

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