Myra's Kitchen Blog  

Food for Travel: Bento Box Meal
Saturday, June 14, 2014

Smoked salmon, purple potatoes, green beans, purple potatoes, pesto, pepper sauce

smoked salmon, purple potatoes, green beans, pesto, red pepper sauce

Video: Bento Box Meal

Since I travel a lot, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time figuring out how to feed myself well in transit. In today’s video, I demonstrate a meal that is simple, nourishing, and travel-worthy. A bento box makes the ideal travel companion; it holds a single-sized meal in a compact container. Airplanes pose singular challenges. Because of the lack of moisture in the cabin and a flying altitude of 30,000 feet; a dry nose, a cottony mouth, and a subdued set of taste buds are common complaints. That is why, when it comes to packing some travel-worthy food, a little strategic planning is in order.

I have developed specific criteria for a tidy bento box meal. The food I pack can’t be goopy or runny: I don’t want a drippy item spilling all over me when I’m in a passenger seat in which I can barely move. Every item also has to be hearty enough to hold up and stay fresh for hours at room temperature. Because of the inevitable last-minute rush before a trip, the meal must be easy to prepare. To minimize waste, I try to make use of the straggler herbs and leaves in my refrigerator. And importantly, I want my on-the-road or in-the-sky meal to be nourishing. In the video, I demo one favorite travel spread that fulfills all of my criteria, with room for variations.

The meal is built around a thick slab of smoked salmon, which I keep stored in my freezer. Next come the vegetables: one starchy and one not. I simply blanch the vegetables in salted water until tender; it’s a good method for keeping the vegetables fresh for long periods of time. One of my current favorites is the purple potato, a hearty, antioxidant-rich, colorful vegetable. In the video I use green beans as my second vegetable, but I sometimes substitute sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, all robust travelers.

The condiments keep the meal lively. To use up perishables left in my refrigerator and to jazz up the simple vegetables and salmon, I typically make a dairy-free pesto. The pesto I demonstrate includes 2 cups of a combination of parsley, dill, scallions, and sorrel to which I add ¾ cup walnuts. Most varieties of nuts and seeds make zesty pestos, so again, I use what I have around. I then add 1 teaspoon of light-colored miso, ½ teaspoon salt, a couple tablespoons lemon juice and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. I give the whole mix a whirl until smooth. Not only do I have a zesty topping for the fish and vegetables, I have extra pesto to freeze.

The other condiment demoed here is a roasted red pepper sauce. Taking only a few minutes to whirl together, it tastes delicious on both the vegetables and the salmon; it also is a good fit for the teeny compartment in the bento box. I blend together ½ cup of jarred roasted peppers (in the video I use the flavorful piquillo), 1 clove garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon vinegar (apple cider, sherry, or red wine), and ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Half a teaspoon honey balances the flavors perfectly. This zingy red dressing lasts refrigerated for over a week.

Either one of the sauces is all you need to add spark to the meal, but the two together are exponentially delectable. When you pack a meal as satisfying as this one, traveling becomes a lot more enjoyable.

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Photo: Tess Steinkolk

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