In-Flight Meal

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Buying a healthy lunch in the airport is challenging. So many circumstances can prevent us from finding a light and nourishing meal. To name a few, there are stressfully short layovers, lackluster options near the gate, exhaustion, and tight travel budgets. Since a dissatisfying meal is no way to kick off a good trip, I travel the skies with a packed lunch. Something delightful will keep me full up there, not fast food, not sugar-loaded bakery items, and not a bag of magazine-rack trail mix.

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The Menu:

  • Green Bean & Chickpea Salad with Toasted Pecan Vinaigrette

This recipe is adapted slightly from Rick Rodgers’ Green Bean Salad with Toasted Pecan Vinaigrette which I discovered on the Splendid Table’s website. 

The Containers:

  • 1 upcycled plastic container
  • 1 thin plastic baggy
  • 1 compostable plastic spoon, the end trimmed off

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Green Bean & Chickpea Salad with Toasted Pecan Vinaigrette:

Makes two (one for lunch today and one for the plane ride)

  • 1 lb. of fresh green beans (this will make about 2 cups of trimmed and steamed beans)
  • 1/2 cup of pecan halves
  • 1 can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • 1 tbs. of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs. of rice wine vinegar
  • 3-4 tbs. of olive oil
  • 1 pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Put a large saucepan with about 1.5 inches of water in the bottom on high heat, and fit the pot with a steamer. Place the lid on the pot.
  2. Rinse the green beans. Using a pair of kitchen shears or a knife, trim the beans into pieces about the width of a chickpea.
  3. Prepare a bowl of ice water near the stove.
  4. Once the water is boiling, put the trimmed green beans in the steamer. Steam for about about three minutes. The beans should be bright green and crisp.
  5. Immediately after steaming, put the beans in the bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process. Strain the beans out, and pour them onto a clean kitchen towel to dry.
  6. Toast the pecan halves in a skillet without oil on medium-high heat. Continuously turn the nuts with a spatula or spoon so that they toast evenly. Once you can smell and see the toasting, turn the heat off and allow the nuts to cool for a few minutes.
  7. Coarsely chop a handful of the toasted pecans. Set these aside until the end. You are reserving them for a crunchy garnish.
  8. Put the remaining pecans in the food processor. Add the rice wine and white balsamic vinegar and process until a creamy paste forms. Leaving the processor on, drizzle in the olive oil.
  9. Open the can of chickpeas, and pour the contents of the can into a colander in the sink. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly.

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  1. Assembly. Scoop half of the now dry green beans into the upcycled plastic container. Arrange them around the edge, so that there is a generous amount of empty space in the middle of the container for chickpeas.
  2. Pour half (or as many as will fit) of the rinsed chickpeas into the center of the container.
  3. Scrape half the vinaigrette into the plastic bag. Lay the bag on the cutting board. Gently mush the dressing around the bag, so that it is distributed in one thin and even layer.
  4. Ensuring all air is pushed out, seal the bag. Fold the corners of the bag toward the center. This way, the bag will fit neatly within the circumference of my container.  Place this bag of dressing on top of the chickpeas and green beans.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped toasted pecans into the rest of the available space in the container.
  6. Lay the trimmed spoon on top of everything.
  7. Secure the lid. If this is hard, look for the high spots. You may have to remove a few green beans and chickpeas.
  8. Fold a paper towel (your to-go napkin) and set it on top of the container. Secure the napkin and reinforce the lid’s staying power with tape. Don’t forget this step. You don’t want this popping open in your carry on! Also, I will probably put it all in a reusable cloth lunch bag for an extra layer of protection, especially since I also plan to pack an apple and bag of pistachios.
  9. Tomorrow, on the plane, I plane to tear a little hole in the corner of the plastic bag. Then I will pipe the dressing neatly into the container, shut the lid, and shake to dress it.

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The beauty of packing in an upcycled container is the recyclability factor. If you packed in good tupperware, you would feel compelled to lug a dirty, empty container all the way to your destination. On the contrary, I have no qualms about parting ways with an old hummus container. In fact, I intend to lighten my carry-on by wiping this one out and dropping it in an airport recycle bin.

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