PESTO CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES WITH ARUGULA AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

PESTO CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES WITH ARUGULA AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES
Makes 8 sandwiches

Stephanie's biggest foodie fear is a soggy sandwich. Chicken salad sandwiches have great portability because they allow you to avoid having to put condiments directly on the bread. We add two elements of flavor — pesto and a light, subtle hit of mayo — to give these non-soggy sandwiches some moisture. Instead of regular plum tomatoes, which release a lot of liquid as they sit, we use sliced sun-dried tomatoes. A healthy handful of arugula helps protect the bread even more. You can use the meat from a whole rotisserie chicken or roast your own.

3 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken
1/4 cup Basil Pesto (recipe follows)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 baguette, cut in half horizontally
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (about 10 tomatoes), thinly sliced
1 cup tightly-packed fresh baby arugula leaves

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, pesto, mayo, and salt. Taste for seasoning. (This can be done 1 or two days ahead.)

2. Preheat the broiler.

3. Place the bread, cut side up, on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler until crusty but not browned, about 2 minutes.

4. Spread the chicken salad evenly over the bottom half of the bread. Add a layer of the sun-dried tomatoes and then the arugula. Top with the remaining bread, and cut into 8 even sandwiches.

BASIL PESTO
Makes about 1 cup

If you are making the pesto in advance, leave out the lemon juice until you are ready to serve — it will turn the basil brown.

1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (see Note below)
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more if needed
1/4 cup olive oil, or more if needed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more if needed

1. In a small food processor, pulse the garlic and pine nuts together with the salt until finely chopped.

2. Add the basil leaves and lemon juice, and blend until the basil has begun to break down. Add the olive oil, and puree until the mixture is smooth and has the desired consistency, adding more oil if needed to break down the nuts and herbs.

3. Fold in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and extra lemon juice as needed.

Variations:

Basil-Parsley Pesto: Substitute 1 cup parsley leaves for 1 cup of the basil.
Arugula Pesto: Omit the Parmesan, and substitute 2 cups arugula for the basil.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto: Substitute 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes for the basil.
Note: Two senses come into play when toasting nuts: sight and smell. Nuts can be toasted in a dry skillet over low to medium heat, or a dry baking sheet in a 350°F oven. Make sure they are in an even layer in the skillet or on the sheet, and allow them to toast slowly. Watch the nuts carefully to make sure they don't brown or burn too quickly — that's when you use your nose. Nuts are done roasting when fragrant and golden. Sesame seeds toast particularly quickly.

GOOD SIPS
Michael Franz, editor of Wine Review Online, is one of our go-to guys for wine advice. Recently we asked him what he pours at home when the heat's on. This is what Michael shared with us:

I happen to live in Washington, D.C., which turns torrid this time of year and stays that way until late September. Consequently, the wines that I choose and the way that I treat them changes quite significantly during summer.

There's no reason to rule out Chardonnay or Cabernet during summer if you are struck by a craving for them, but there are other grape varieties that prove more refreshing and work better with the light foods of summer. Here's a list of my top choices in alphabetical order:

White: Albariño, Arneis, Assyrtiko, Godello, Grüner Veltliner, Moschofilero, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sylvaner, Torrontes, Verdejo, and Verdicchio.

Red: Agiorgitiko, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Dolcetto, Gamay, Lemberger (a.k.a. Blaufrankisch) Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo.

A few of these summer standouts are a little obscure (three from Greece!), but any decent wine shop could easily supply you with plenty of wines made from these grapes. Nevertheless, buying the right wines is only half the battle, because getting the serving temperature right is far more important during summer than in any other season.

For most of the year, white wines really aren't at their best when pulled directly from a refrigerator or an ice bucket. Extreme cold blunts their aromas, sharpens their acidity and shortens their aftertaste, so I usually pull whites from the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving — except in summer. But during hot weather, I pour whites thoroughly chilled because refreshment becomes a top priority. I don't worry about the wines being too cold since the ambient temperature will warm them more quickly than during other seasons, and since anyone wishing to warm a wine can simply cup it in their palms for 20 seconds.

Where red wines are concerned, you'd be well advised to ditch the conventional wisdom that reds should be served at room temperature. This made good sense when the rule was established, which was probably during the 19th century by some guy in an English manor house without central heat. The room temperature back then was probably 62 rather than 72 degrees, and on a hot day you'll find that reds are dramatically improved when served at that lower number.

Reds that are too warm will show too much alcoholic "heat" in their aromas and aftertaste, and will seem soupy and unfocused, with insufficient acidity and almost no refreshment value. When the weather gets really hot, I chill every red for 20 to 30 minutes before opening, which brightens and balances them dramatically. Your guests may think it a bit strange when you pull reds from your refrigerator, but the results are so convincing that you won't need to offer an explanation!