Take Your Lunch to Work: Beans
One package of white beans; five easy, varied, quick lunches
Weekend Prepwhat you’ll need: dried beans, a bay leaf, parsley, whole peppercorns, olive oil, an onion, carrots, and celery
WHAT YOU’LL DO: Buy one (half-pound) package of Great Northern white beans, soak them in water overnight Saturday night, and cook them on Sunday using this simple method (the chile is optional). Refrigerate the beans in their cooking liquid until you’re ready to use them.
Monday Lunch: Bean and Spinach Saladwhat you’ll need: red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, shallots, spinach, olives, red bell pepper, parsley, Parmesan or feta, crusty bread
WHAT YOU’LL DO: On Monday morning, put one part red wine vinegar and two parts olive oil along with one part bean liquid and some salt, pepper, and minced shallot in a small jar that you can take to work. Combine some spinach, sliced olives (oil-cured would be great), minced red bell pepper, one-fifth of the beans (drained), some chopped parsley, and some Parmesan or feta cheese; toss; and throw in a resealable container (you can even use a Ziploc bag). When you get to work, toss the salad with the dressing and enjoy with some crusty bread.
Tuesday Lunch: Middle Eastern Wrapwhat you’ll need: garlic; olive oil; red wine vinegar; parsley; salt and pepper; pita or lavash; cucumber, olives, red bell pepper, tomatoes, or other vegetables of your choosing; feta (optional)
WHAT YOU’LL DO: On Monday night, purée one-quarter of the remaining beans (or mash them if you don’t have a food processor) with minced garlic, a little olive oil, and some red wine vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper. Tuesday morning, spread the mashed beans in a pita or lavash, then add sliced cucumber, olives, red bell pepper, tomato, or any other vegetables you like, and/or feta or your favorite cheese.
Wednesday Lunch: Bean Pastawhat you’ll need: short pasta of your choosing, garlic, onion, parsley, olive oil, bell pepper (optional), tomatoes (optional), olives, salt and pepper, Parmesan (optional)
WHAT YOU’LL DO: On Tuesday night, cook some short pasta (elbow macaroni, orzo, penne, etc.) and drain. Sauté some garlic, onion, and a handful of parsley in olive oil until soft. Add one-third of the remaining beans, equal parts cooked pasta, and enough of the bean-cooking liquid to make it saucy, then toss to combine. Add more parsley, some bell pepper (optional), tomatoes (optional), and olives (as desired) and season with salt and pepper. Reheat when you get to work and, if you’d like, grate some Parmesan on top just before eating.
Thursday Lunch: Quick Bean Soupwhat you’ll need: onion, carrots, celery, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper, bell pepper or tomatoes, low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, spinach, lemon juice or vinegar, Parmesan (optional)
WHAT YOU’LL DO: On Wednesday night, sauté some onion, carrot, celery, and parsley in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add some chopped bell pepper or tomatoes, one-half of the remaining beans, one part bean-cooking liquid, and one part broth or water and bring to a simmer, then stir in some spinach and a few squeezes of lemon juice or vinegar. Reheat at work on Thursday and finish with Parmesan as desired.
Friday Lunch: Bean and Cheese Dipwhat you’ll need: nothing if you made the lunches from earlier in the week
WHAT YOU’LL DO: Take your remaining beans and mash or purée them with a little oil, some garlic, and plenty of salt. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and store in a container that can go in the toaster oven or microwave. Cut your remaining pita or lavash into wedges, along with vegetables from the week. At work, heat the bean dip in the toaster oven or microwave and dip into it with the pita or lavash and vegetables.