The end of summer always brings a sense of melancholy. It’s a feeling I know well. Even though it’s been decades since I was in school, I can still remember the heady days when I had nearly 2 glorious months off for summer vacation. There were no classes to attend. No tests to take. No homework to forget. It was just me and mornings of sleeping in. Afternoons of hanging out by the creek. And late nights of getting jacked up on popcorn and soda while watching mindless reruns on one of the 5 available TV channels (times were primitive back then).
Still, those were the days.
So when the end of August rolled around and another school year reared its #2 pencil shaped head, I was both excited and bummed. Excited about the blank slate of possibilities that lay ahead. And bummed that my yearly stint as a bohemian was about to come to an end.
Coincidently, the start of school also meant that certain recipes would be replaced by more fall appropriate fare. And one of the soon to be missed was chicken salad – a cool, comfortable dish that had good food written all over it. I remember having it for dinner along with deviled eggs, sweet gherkins, sharp cheddar cheese and ice tea (the house wine of the South). It was the kind of meal that took the edge off of the steamy Texas heat and summed up everything I loved about summer – simple, easy-going and full of flavor.
Much like the start of a new school year, chicken salad is a blank canvas. You can mix just about any combination of ingredients to paint a picture of pure deliciousness. I’ve enjoyed mine on the sweet side with the addition of dried cranberries. And on the hot side with a fiery dose of serranos. But since I was in a mellow mood, I went for something more savory by adding sliced olives and toasted pine nuts into the mix.
Rather than pile everything on two slices of bread and dive in, I eased my way into the start of another season with bite sized rolls. Think of them as sliders minus the greasy burger. They were just enough to satiate and not too much to overwhelm. Which is how I remember ending summer and starting off each new school year…taking small, satisfying bites at a time. Funny how even as I grow up, some things never change.
1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into small pieces
2 generous tablespoons each:
- diced red pepper
- diced yellow pepper
- diced red onion
4 – 5 pitted and seasoned green olives, diced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Mayonnaise (to taste)
Dijon mustard (to taste)
Salt & pepper (to taste)
Arugula, rinsed and dried
6 – 8 silver dollar dinner rolls, cut in half
6 – 8 bread and butter pickle slices
Combine the first eight ingredients and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Brush each cut side of roll with a little olive oil and lightly brown under broiler then let cool. Arrange a few slices of arugula on the bottom of the dinner roll, top with the chicken salad mix and finish with a bread and butter pickle.
Inspired by two great women, my Mom and Paula Deen.