Loving Your Lunchbox — Panang Salmon

Inspired by the Panang Salmon from Teton Thai, this recipe offers hearty, delicious brown bag lunch. It’s so good your coworkers will think it’s take-out.

What’s in your lunchbox? Has your old standby portable lunch — turkey sandwich/banana/Luna bar — become a tired cliche of a meal? Do you crave the tasty take-out lunches available all over Jackson, yet lack the time needed to schlep around town in the middle of the day?

This year, resolve to shake up your lunchtime routine with fresh, healthy meals that you — and your kids — will look forward to. With my new column, Loving Your Lunchbox, I’ll help you out by designing lunches you’ll love. By packing a healthy lunch, you’ll save time and money. You’ll have more energy to get through the work day. I’ll even recommend a snack to get you over the 3 p.m. slump.

But first, you will need a decent lunchbox. This humble piece of gear transformed my working life back in the days when I had no time for lunch. Skipping lunch usually left me scrounging in the back of my desk for stale Clif bars, cranky and tired by the end of the day. Packing a lunch helped me breeze through the day with a series of healthy snacks, and an even-keeled blood sugar to match.

A lunchbox on your kitchen counter is a gentle reminder to plan ahead. It doesn’t have to be as adorable as mine — from Lily & Co. — but a good-looking lunchbox will surely raise your lunchtime morale. It should be deep enough to hold a Thermos and a drink.

Start thinking about packing your lunch when planning your suppers for the week. Cook an extra piece of salmon, chicken or fish. Reserve a few slices of flank steak. Make extra rice, beans, lentils, polenta, pasta or couscous. Have a bag of greens, washed and dried, wrapped in paper towels and ready to go. A few stalks of steamed broccoli, a handful of edamame, some roasted root vegetables — small servings of vegetables make for great lunchbox sides.

Have a few nice sauces on hand in the fridge: my quick Thai red curry sauce, spicy sake sesame dressing or creamy miso dressing, to name a few.  All can be made in advance and keep well for several weeks in the fridge. Make a big batch of maple soy vinaigrette for creating many yummy salads (recipes follow at the end of the post).

Don’t forget to pack a treat, just a little nibble to reward yourself for eating a healthy lunch, getting halfway through the workday, and saving money by not eating out. If you pack lunch for your kids, you know that treats are essential to a successful lunch.

Packing lunch is best done the night before, not when you’re rushed in the morning to get to work on time. I like to pack lunches after dinner, as I am putting away leftovers and perusing the contents of the fridge. Ideally, you should have a good selection of microwaveable containers with tight-fitting lids.

This is the lunch I would pack on the days when I’m craving the Panang Salmon from Teton Thai. A pan-seared salmon filet, black beluga lentils, sticky purple rice, and small tub of Thai red curry sauce becomes a beautiful, healthy, and not-at-all boring midday meal.

Here’s the trick: The night before, briefly sear the salmon filet on each side in a very hot pan and a small amount of oil. The interior of the filet should still be raw, but it will cook up perfectly pink when reheated in the microwave for lunch the next day.

The day’s treat: A crisp apple precut and ready for dipping in Nutella. Small packets of Nutella can be found at Hungry Jack’s in Wilson.

Your afternoon snack: A handful of maple syrup olive oil granola mixed with dried cherries and chocolate chips.

Thai Red Curry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Fresh ginger

Instructions

  • Saute Thai red curry in hot oil for 2 minutes.
  • Slowly whisk in half of a can of well-shaken coconut milk.
  • Peel and grate fresh ginger over the sauce, and bring to a boil.
  • Lower the heat and reduce by half.
  • Keeps refrigerated for up to one week.
http://dishingjh.com/loving-your-lunchbox-panang-salmon/

Spicy Sesame Sake Dressing

Ingredients

  • Use to dress a salad bowl, or make your own Dan Dan Noodles by tossing it into warm rice noodles with grilled chicken, carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts and toasted sesame seeds.
  • This recipe is adapted from Simple Asian Meals by Nina Simonds.
  • Yields about 1 cup
  • 1 cup sesame tahini paste
  • 10 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine (mirin) or sake
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot chili paste (such as sombel olek) or Sriracha sauce to taste

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or the bowl of a food processor, and blend thoroughly.
  • Taste, and add more sugar or chili paste to your liking.
  • Serve drizzled over your salad bowl, with a small bowl of dressing on the side.
http://dishingjh.com/loving-your-lunchbox-panang-salmon/

Maple Soy Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • My favorite salad dressing is known around here as "Emily's Dressing", after a local private chef who has since moved on to bigger and better things. This recipe has been requested by just about everyone I have ever served a salad with this yummy dressing. I like it tossed with roasted vegetables too...Brussels sprouts, beets, carrots and parsnips come to mind.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (extra virgin or pure)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic (average size), minced
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender, a food processor, or with an immersion blender until smooth.
  • Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to a month.
  • Toss with mixed greens, sliced apples or pears, toasted nuts, and feta or goat cheese. Or just toss with roasted vegetables.
http://dishingjh.com/loving-your-lunchbox-panang-salmon/

Maple Syrup Olive Oil Granola with Ginger and Figs

Ingredients

  • Makes 5-6 cups
  • 5 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried black mission figs, tops chopped off and diced
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced (available in bulk at Jackson Whole Grocer)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Place oats in a large bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, almond and vanilla extract. (If the maple syrup has been heated in the microwave and is warm, this is a lot easier.)
  • Pour the liquids over the oats and mix well. Sprinkle with salt and mix well.
  • Place the granola evenly over a large baking sheet that has been lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.
  • Bake 20 minutes and turn pan. Bake another 20 minutes. Toss granola from the edges into the middle of the pan and spread evenly. Bake until golden brown but not burnt.
  • Cool in the pan, then toss with the ginger and figs.
  • For trail mix, add a handful of chocolate chips.
http://dishingjh.com/loving-your-lunchbox-panang-salmon/

Creamy Miso Dressing

Ingredients

  • Sweet white miso paste gives this dressing its creamy, savory flavor. Miso paste is low in calories and sodium, and this is by far the healthiest of the dressings. It is perfect for drizzling over seared tofu, sushi rice and vegetables topped with pickled ginger and crispy nori.
  • This recipe is adapted from Simple Asian Meals by Nina Simonds.
  • Yields about 1 cup
  • 1 cup sweet white miso paste
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin or 1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Instructions

  • Place the miso paste in a blender or the bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, add the water in a slow stream to make a smooth paste. (You could also do this by hand with a whisk.)
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.
  • Taste and adjust the sweet and salty ingredients to your liking.
http://dishingjh.com/loving-your-lunchbox-panang-salmon/


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Author:Annie Fenn

A retired gynecologist turned food writer, Annie Fenn writes about food and life in Jackson Hole. Lately, she has been struggling to keep up with the caloric needs of her two soccer- and skiing-obsessed teenage boys. Find more of her recipes at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and follow her on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie for more frequent foodie inspiration.