The Desk Lunch 2.0

Going back to work after a lazy summer, or even a hectic summer, always brings me to the same dilemma: what to pack for lunch? I live at a desk most days, with a lovely little cheese cave beneath it, but on the rare occasion I don’t want Roquefort with pears at noon, there has to be sustenance. And our university’s offerings are paltry — if only Aramark could see the value in a cheese cart.

A good desk lunch, in my opinion, should be built around “zest and gusto” — the same building blocks that Ray Bradbury requires of good fiction. Most of my lunches are built on scraps and urgency; I grab what I can before I push my feet into leopard-print shoes and run for the train.

My end-of-summer resolution — and I am saying this to you, so I can’t fart out — is to go cheerily into fall with fabulous lunches. Let’s give the doggie bag a make-over, shall we? Let’s drive our coworkers wild with envy. Let’s sit at our desks, cloth napkins in lap, and really enjoy a midday meal instead of gacking down a sandwich in front of the screen.

Are you with me?

Here are my lunch criteria for maximum enjoyment and portability:

  • Color: no beige sandwich, chips, and a cookie
  • Hot or cold: it should swing both ways, in case there’s a line by the microwave
  • Packing: it should not require 10,000 pieces of Gladware
  • Ingredients: simple but zesty

And so I present to you my first lunch of the semester. You might think lentils shmentils, but let me point out that lentils are quick to cook and easy to jazz up. They’re also cheap and full of protein and fiber. On Mondays, when I teach into the evening, this is a lunch that gives me longevity.

Lunch Lentils with Zest and Gusto

Make lentils on Sunday, and you won’t have to worry about lunch for most of the week. To add variety, experiment with different sides, like chicken, chutney, rice, corn salsa, tortilla chips, quinoa, chopped apricots, red pepper flakes, or roasted sweet potatoes. This recipe makes 4 or 5 servings, and it’s good cold or at room temperature.

2 cups brown lentils

1 cup chopped onions

2 garlic cloves

4 cups water

3 teaspoons curry powder

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 roasted red peppers, chopped

1 cup feta, crumbled (I prefer Bulgarian feta, so creamy)

1 cup chopped parsley

4-5 lime slices


1. Rinse lentils and toss them into a smallish soup pot with onions, garlic, water, and curry powder. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. Lentils should be soft but not mushy.

2. Add vinegar and salt, then allow the lentils to cool.

3. Divide the lentils into 4 containers and top each one with roasted peppers, feta, parsley, and a wedge of lime. Give the lime a squeeze right before you eat this dish at your desk — it really refreshes all the flavors.

Recommended sides: yogurt, flatbread or tortilla chips, fruit, chocolate

Eating a fabulous lunch at your desk? Let me know!


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3 Responses to “The Desk Lunch 2.0”
  1. The female Porth says:

    My fab and easy lunch: Chopped and raw red kale salad with tomatoes, quinoa, cucumber, and feta, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Served with a side of baby carrots and of course homemade hummus 🙂

  2. Karen says:

    Fabulous, healthy lunches can be a real challenge if we want to avoid the boredom of a turkey sandwich!!! 🙂

    A couple of my favorite lunches:

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