Sandwiches are a good solution for casual, late summer meals. They're lighter than many meals, and they have a free form that invites the cook to improvise at will.
If sandwiches once were reserved for lunch boxes and family-only suppers, those rules no longer apply. Sandwiches now are approached with a creative hand. These chicken breasts, bathed in a summery sauce, are grilled and layered together with cheese and tomatoes. Other vegetables can be added as well.
A typical summer cole slaw takes a creative turn with the addition of lentils, which offer appealing texture as well as a peppery bite. The salad holds well in the refrigerator, so you might want to double the recipe. Then, a day or two later, add some crumbled goat cheese or a little cooked sausage.
Bathed in a flavorful marinade, the chicken breasts don't have to be made into sandwiches. They can, of course, be grilled and served plain.
Grilled tarragon-chicken sandwiches
Yield: 4 servings.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Marinating time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes
1 small clove garlic
1/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves
1 1/2 ounces fontinella cheese
2 tablespoons walnut halves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 whole chicken breasts, boned, skinned, split
4 egg twist rolls, split
4 slices fontinella cheese
4 tomato slices
Make the pesto by mincing the garlic, tarragon, cheese and walnuts in a food processor or blender. Add the oil and salt; mix well. Transfer half the pesto to a large plastic food bag and add the chicken. Seal tightly and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Reserve the remaining pesto. Cook the chicken over medium-hot coals, turning once, until done, 8 to 10 minutes. Shortly before the chicken is finished, place the rolls at the edges of the grill and cook until lightly toasted.
To assemble the sandwiches, brush some of the remaining pesto over the rolls. Make sandwiches by topping the warm chicken with a slice of cheese and a tomato slice. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Lentil slaw salad
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 15 to 25 minutes
1 cup green or brown lentils
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 cup each, finely chopped: red cabbage, green cabbage
1/2 cup each, finely chopped: celery, carrot, red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs such as cilantro, basil and mint
salt, pepper to taste
Cook lentils in boiling salted water just until they are tender. Cooking time will vary. Start testing them after 15 minutes. Do not overcook. They shouldn't be cooked until they begin to fall apart. Drain well and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss lentils with vinegar and oil. Cool slightly, then mix with vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper. Salad can be made a day ahead of time; adjust seasoning at serving time.
Caramel plum crumb bars
Yield: 16 2-inch squares.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
1 1/4 cups each: rolled oats, all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 10 pieces
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-square baking pan. In a food processor or mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a metal blade or a pastry blender, and mix until the butter is the size of small peas. Mix in pecans. Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture for the topping. Press the rest into the bottom of the prepared pan. Drizzle caramel topping over.
Halve and pit the plums; cut each half into 8 slices. Arrange in rows across the caramel. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top.
Bake until golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely before serving. To serve, cut in squares.