Working women are busy. Between their jobs, family, and other obligations, it's not surprising that prepping a delicious lunch tends to fall by the wayside. Regrettably, we're then forced to resign ourselves to the sad desk salad: a basic chopped salad that features little else than carrots, red peppers, and, if you were really on top of your groceries that week, some avocado too. The paltry meal has become so notorious that it's even been novelized.

With the chief goal of making lunchtime more exciting, we reached out to Ned Baldwin, head chef at Houseman, a trendy restaurant in N.Y.C.'s West Village known for its seasonal menu (and amazing salads), for tips on how to zhoosh up your own. "A salad is always a collision of flavors and textures," Baldwin tells InStyle. "Every element needs to be carefully considered." Read on for his go-to approach.

Little Gem, Walnut, and Date Salad


1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup sliced baby fennel
1/4 cup toasted crushed walnuts
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup segmented oranges
1-2 heads cleaned little gem lettuces (can substitute endives or romaine lettuce)
Hard, shaveable goat cheese (can substitute young pecorino or ricotta salata)
Splash of red wine vinegar
Olive oil


1. Thinly slice red onion and fennel. Salt generously and add vinegar, toss and set aside.
2. Combine lettuces, dates, walnuts and segmented oranges. Season lightly with salt, add a little vinegar and oil and toss together.
3. Add in fennel/red onion mixture and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning.
4. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and shave cheese on top with a microplane or other grater.

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