What’s not to love about a great jar salad? They’re pretty, they’re healthy, they save you time, they stay super fresh, you can use recycled jars, and did I mention SO PRETTY?
But not all jar salads are created equal!
Some of those elaborate Pinterest-featured concoctions are too fiddly to really save you time, and any salad with too many ingredients risks a big no-no: everything tastes the same at the other end.
That’s why my favourite jar salads keep it simple, and that’s why today I say Yassou to a Greek jar salad. Scroll on down for the instructions (it’s embarrassing to even call it a recipe!)
You know the other reason I love a jar salad? Because, like all enduringly good family food, it comes with a method rather than just a recipe. And what do we say in The Flawsome Family Mealbook? Methods make meals!
The method that will turn any salad recipe into a make-ahead, stay crisp, look gorgeous, taste great, WONDER in a jar, is as follows:
In a normal salad you add the dressing last or even leave it to the side for individual serving at the table. This is smart because a long application of dressing is death to the very things we love about salad: crunch, lightness, and different flavour combos.
Jar salads literally turn this upside down.
- Take a wide mouthed jar (I love the spring and rubber sealed ones from IKEA or KMart).
- Begin by pouring some dressing into the bottom of your jar.
- Then start packing in your ingredients with the most dense and heavy layers first. Think about what part of the salad you want touching that dressing for the longest.
- Generally, your very last layer will be leafy greens – safe at the top of the jar away from any limp-making dressing or squish-making heavy chunks.
When you’re ready to eat, most people give the jar a shake and then tip it all in a bowl. If your jar isn’t too tall though, you can just shake the dressing through the salad and eat your way down from the top without a bowl. Your bonus for the latter approach? You get those awesome greens eaten first – big kudos to you for finishing your iron and folic acid before hitting the proteins and carbs!!
A lot of recipes for jar salads will tell you they keep for five days, but frankly, three is more like it. You may find you can stretch it to the full week, but me? I’m not only fickle about my lunches, I’m fussy as hell about my salads not smelling like last month’s crisper drawer. Make three jars at a time, is my advice, and you’re still being super efficient.
Best for grownups and weekends
One final tip on method for jar salads: there’s a reason they aren’t highly recommended for school lunches and it’s not related to the glass in the jars (because you can use a sealed plastic container just as easily).
Kids’ schoolbags might be carried out of your house in a vertical position, but they spend the rest of the day being shoved, tossed, nudged, rolled and kicked all over the place. Sad times for your formerly crispy greens!
The robust nature of the Greek salad (below) does lend itself to a bit of schoolyard roughing up, however, so does a Chicken Caesar, so if the idea of a layered salad gets your kids keen to eat them for lunch, maybe give it a whirl. Otherwise? Save them for yourself or for healthy, hassle-free and picnic-ready weekend lunches for everyone.
What’s a ‘real’ Greek salad?
According to Elena Paravantes a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Mediterranean Diet Consultant writing about ‘real’ Greek salad for the Huffpost
While there are variations around Greece, it is basically a salad made with tomato, cucumber, olive oil, olives and feta.
Ms Paravantes is very clear that lettuce and capsicum have no place in a real Greek salad.
My friend Alethea, however, whose very kid-friendly Avegolemono soup is a highlight in The Flawsome Family Mealbook, has a slightly less rigid view (but not on the cheese – don’t you dare test her on the cheese!)
I suggested red wine vinegar was a good option. She called me a pagan. Serious stuff.
Tessa Kiros puts capers in her Greek salad. I decided not to mention that to Alethea.
Ideally I wouldn’t mess with an Alethea instruction – because like Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
She was a vixen when she went to school,
And though she be but little, she is fierce.
Though I be but big, I am flawsome – so here’s how I made it last night, ready for my 700km road trip to Maitland today.