Lunchtime doesn't have to be just a can of soup or a sandwich

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

When it comes to lunches, most of us just open up a can of soup or throw some deli meat and cheese on some bread and call it lunch. Or maybe we’ll open up some yogurt or cottage cheese and add some fruit or fix a little green salad and wash it all down with a Diet Pepsi. Maybe we’ll just stop at a fast-food diner and eat in or bring it all home.

Or maybe, we’ll actually think about it, and create an easy and scrumptious salad or sandwich or soup that we couldn’t get at a restaurant.

Ever thought about making some tacos for lunch? We always have some crunchy corn tostados on hand, along with some cans of refried black beans and some cooked chorizo. Just add some salsa, shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream and you have a truly delectable luncheon entrée. My favorite is just some homemade guacamole on a tostado.

The “Tuna Salad Sandwich with Granny Smith Apples” bursts with fresh flavors, from tart Granny Smith apples to crisp, spicy fennel. A simple bacon-mustard vinaigrette dresses up Romaine lettuce and shredded rotisserie chicken for an easy and satisfying “Chicken Salad with Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette” classic lunch. Or try the “Chicken Parmesan on Tomato-Basil Bruschetta” appetizer.

Let the mild, nutty flavor of avocados stand in for Swiss cheese in a classic “Ham and Avocado Baguette Sandwich.” Preparing the creamy “Kicked-up Tomato Soup” is made easy by employing canned fire-roasted tomatoes served with hot, crusty rolls for a satisfying lunch.

Tuna Salad Sandwich with Granny Smith Apples

15 oz. solid light canned tuna, drained

1/2 cup chopped fennel

1/2 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1-1/2 tsps. fennel seeds

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp. sea salt

6 split hot dog rolls

6 Boston lettuce leaves

Combine the tuna, fennel, apple, mayonnaise, lemon juice, fennel seeds, coriander, zest, and salt; toss well. Line each roll with a lettuce leaf. Spoon 1/2 cup tuna salad onto each sandwich. Serve immediately. Makes 6 sandwiches.

Chicken Salad with Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette

4 slices bacon, each cut in half

2 Tbsps. cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 bag (9 oz.) cut hearts of romaine

2 cup (about 10 oz.) shredded, skinless rotisserie chicken meat

In a 2-quart saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat 5-6 minutes or until browned. With tongs or slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from saucepan.

Using wire whisk, add vinegar, Dijon mustard, oil, salt, and pepper to drippings in saucepan and heat to boiling over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Place romaine in large serving bowl. Pour hot dressing over romaine; toss until coated. Add chicken and toss until well mixed. Crumble bacon; sprinkle over salad. Makes 4 main dish servings.

Chicken Parmesan on Tomato-Basil Bruschetta

1 large French baguette, sliced into 18 diagonal pieces and toasted

2 cups Bertolli Tomato & Basil Sauce

1 cup fresh basil

12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 pound cooked and breaded chicken cutlets or tenderloins, cut into thin slices

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a cookie sheet, arrange bread slices. Evenly spread with 1 cup sauce, then layer basil, chicken, remaining 1 cup sauce and cheese. Bake 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and bruschetta is heated through. Garnish, if desired, with thinly sliced basil leaves. Makes 18 appetizers.

Ham and Avocado Baguette Sandwiches

2 baguettes (about 18 inches each)

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 Tbsps. Dijon mustard

1/8 tsp. coarse black pepper

3/4 pound Virginia ham, sliced

3 large avocados, peeled and sliced

Cut the heels off the ends of baguettes and cut each into 3 equal pieces, split each horizontally along one side, leaving the other side intact. Open the pieces so they are flat.

Stir the butter, mustard, and pepper together until smooth, and spread on both sides of the bread. Layer with the ham and avocado, and sprinkle with the sea salt. Wrap the sandwiches with parchment or wax paper, and tie with a string to secure. Keep chilled and serve within 3 hours. Makes 6 sandwiches.

‘Kicked-up’ Tomato Soup

2 cans (28-oz.) roasted tomatoes

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced

3 Tbsps. olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup orange juice

1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. hot-pepper sauce (Tabasco)

1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, very thinly sliced

In a blender, add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup cucumber and purée until smooth. Set aside. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add puréed tomato mixture, orange juice, bell pepper, salt, and black pepper and stir to combine. Continue to cook for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the hot sauce, parsley, and cream. Serve hot, garnished with the cheese and remaining cucumber. Makes 8 servings.

Reader Feedback

Many readers have mentioned making the French onion soup with chicken stock I recommended a few weeks ago. But some have mentioned it made too much and wondered if the onion and soup stock would freeze. The idea is to make plenty of cooked onions and then just use what you need and refrigerate or freeze the rest. As far as the chicken stock goes, just make enough to use for that meal. I don’t recommend combining onions with any leftover stock and then storing the mixture, although it may turn out all right.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.