Healthy Vegetable Lunch With Added Protein

This is lunch which could and perhaps should be served in most boardrooms or business meetings, but also is one you would be equally comfortable serving in a country kitchen to which you invited a few friends. There are three simple rules rules to follow: (1) Cut up into slices or small florets at least 10 fresh vegetables, preferably most of which can be obtained from the garden the morning of the lunch; (2) 6-8 side dishes or a mostly protein food each of which traditionally goes well with fresh vegetables; and (3) water, Arizona-iced tea and ice cubes.

How you set up lunch depends on the number of people you expect. For only 3-4 obviously you will have a few serving plates on the table with many vegetables and side dishes combined onto just a few plates, but for 18-20 or more you will need a well-organized serving area so that folks can file through to put things together on plates they’ll pick up at the head of the serving line.

There are three parts then to getting set up: (1) vegetables, (2) high-protein dishes, (3) water and tea. First, you’ll need to get things together and get ready to prepare final dishes, then you’ll need to prepare and distribute them onto the table or into a serving area.

For vegetables you’ll need tomatoes (red, orange and yellow), cucumbers, zucchini, beets, radishes, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, baby carrots, green onions and sweet green, red, orange and yellow sweet peppers.  Of course, you’ll want as much from the garden as possible. You may want about twice as many tomatoes and cucumbers distributed onto additional plates as these tend to be more popular choices among selected vegetables. Several colors of tomatoes are great as well as a dish containing multiple cherry tomatoes.

Slice up the large tomatoes as well as cucumbers in thick slices and distribute onto serving plates with tomato slices in the deeper middle with cucumber slices surrounding the tomatoes. These can all be doctored up with a  little olive oil and balsamic vinegar or with an all-purpose vinegar-and-oil-based dressing like Garlic Expressions. Sprinkle each plate with about 15-20 freshly picked basil leaves, cut up in small pieces. You can also add freshly cut up dill sprigs and cut up chives. You can also cut up moderately large pieces of sweet peppers and sprinkle them on top of the tomatoes before adding either vinegar and oil or the mix of herbs. If you have three of these dishes, you can vary the distribution of colored tomatoes and colored sweet peppers on each and possibly use cut fresh basil on one, cut dill sprigs on a second, and cut chives or even cut up green onions on a third. Alternatively, you can mix it all up so that all three plates are about the same.

Additional vegetable plates will include cut up zucchini slices, beets (Detroit red beets previously cooked and thickly sliced are best), kohlrabi slices, baby carrots, whole small tender radishes, as well small bite sized florets of uncooked broccoli and cauliflower. These vegetables can be grouped and distributed on a few additional serving plates. I recommend a completely separate dish for the beets.

All guests will start we a few lettuce leaves and build a salad from the above vegetable dishes. They may then add a little from among the following higher protein dishes and perhaps a little more vinegar and oil or herbs from freshly cut herb dishes you may wish to provide on the side.

Among the higher protein additions recommended for consideration are the following: (1) tuna mixed with a little mayonnaise or a mild pickle relish, (2) chicken salad with a little mayonnaise and tarragon and slivered or more finely cut almonds, (3) cottage cheese with added chives (optional), (4) whole clams, (5) smoked oysters, (6) moist salmon pieces (previously baked), (6) mixed nuts, (7) pine nuts (8) slices of hard boiled eggs, (8) previously cooked Cannillini beans and or Northern beans sprinkled with fresh finely cut parsley. You may want to keep added amounts of some of these dishes cooled and in reserve. You may be surprised at how popular some of them will be to your guests.

Don’t put out any crackers, chips, breads or other junk foods, and certainly not anything prepared from canned or packaged processed foods with a list of ingredients some of which your 10-year old grandson or grand daughter would have trouble pronouncing.

Finally, you’ll want to have water and iced tea in separate pitchers as well as a covered collection of ice cubes with tongs. I can’t recommend a desert with this lunch, but perhaps some chocolate covered mints can be set out on the water-iced tea table after folks have served themselves and begun eating.

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