I wonder if school administrators intentionally planned the reopening of school around the official beginning of fall Sunday. It seems as if an autumn mentality takes place and summer frivolity is left behind. I find that even though my children are out of school, I still run my life around the academic calendar. September is the month that committees, charities, PTA and social groups reconvene.
Each year my favorite charity group looks for someone to host their opening luncheon meeting and for the past few years it's been me. Last year's luncheon was a huge success and I thought you might enjoy the recipes. The chicken salad is hearty and healthful with tomatoes, avocados, sprouts, zucchini and mushrooms. Teamed with a moist zucchini-nut bread, it makes a satisfying noontime meal. For dessert I served a simple, warm Apple Brown Betty, topped with cool, tangy sour cream sauce.
The following recipes are from my cookbook, "Year-Round Holiday Cookbook" (Harper & Row).
I went to lunch at a cafe in Los Angeles and ordered their chicken salad. I was so impressed, I devised the recipe at home.
This hearty salad is bursting with the flavor of bacon and healthful with colorful fresh-chopped vegetables.
RANCH-STYLE CHICKEN SALAD
1 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 head lettuce
1 (0.4-ounce) envelope ranch-style salad dressing mix
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
3 to 4 cups cooked chicken pieces
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 avocados, peeled and cut into wedges
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
Cook bacon over moderate heat in large skillet, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Wash and tear lettuce into bite-size pieces. Refrigerate in plastic bags until ready to use.
Prepare dressing according to package directions, using buttermilk and mayonnaise.
To serve, place lettuce in large bowl. Add chicken, tomatoes, avocados, eggs, onion, mushrooms, zucchini and alfalfa sprouts. Toss with half of dressing, reserving remainder for another use. Makes 6 servings.
Note: Extra buttermilk may be frozen.
Zucchini bread is unlike any other. You can see the zucchini, but you can't really taste it. It just makes the bread incredibly moist. This is a fine-textured loaf with a slight crunch of chopped nuts. It's crusty on the outside, soft on the inside and much more cinnamon-scented than most.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Beat eggs until frothy in mixing bowl or food processor fitted with metal blade. Add sugar, oil and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Add zucchini, flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix just until blended. Stir in nuts.
Spoon batter into greased and floured 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake bread at 350 degrees 50 to 60 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto cooling rack and turn right side up to cool completely.
Before serving, reheat at 350 degrees, if desired, until hot, about 10 minutes. Slice and serve with butter. Makes about 8 servings.
Note: Bread may be refrigerated for 3 days. Wrapped in foil it also may be frozen.
This soothing old-fashioned dessert is amazingly simple to put together. Traditionally the crumbs are just on top, but I divide them between a top and bottom layer. The apple filling is soft and warm, and I like to serve it with icy cold cream sauce or a scoop of ice cream for a contrast of taste sensations.
APPLE BROWN BETTY
2 pounds tart green cooking apples (about 4), peeled, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Toss apples with lemon juice, granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
Combine flour, cracker crumbs, oats and brown sugar in food processor fitted with metal blade. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Stir in nuts. Divide mixture in half. Sprinkle half in bottom of 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate. Layer apple filling over crumbs, then top with remaining crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees 30 minutes or until top is crisp and golden and apples are tender.
Meanwhile, combine sour cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve dessert warm topped with chilled sauce, if desired. Makes 8 servings.
Note: Dessert may be refrigerated overnight and reheated.