- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lunch can be such an overlooked part of your day when you’re pressed at work and using your free time to run errands. You’re lucky if you can sandwich in a snack and a latte.

If you’ve forgotten the pleasures of a leisurely meal, set a date and invite a friend or your Two’s Company partner to join you for lunch. Plan a menu that doesn’t sabotage your de-stressing intentions.

You don’t have to make every item from scratch. Focus your efforts on recipes you enjoy making and buy the rest.

For example, if you love the aroma of food simmering on the stovetop, make your favorite minestrone soup or stew and buy an artisan bread or breadsticks as an accompaniment. Add ice cream and frozen sliced fruit, and you’ve got dessert.

I enjoy making and serving salads during the winter. A bowl of fresh delicate greens during the worst of winter can lift the gloom of the season.

For a winter salad, I suggest starting with dark flavorful greens, such as spinach, arugula or romaine lettuce leaves. Take a look in the supermarket deli case to see what you can add to the dish.

Olives, capers, artichoke hearts, salami, prosciutto and sharp Parmesan cheese are delicious options. Purchase a quarter cup of two or three salad items for variety, but avoid having all high-sodium ingredients.

A small handful of nuts will add flavor and texture.

Use the following salad recipe for inspiration. Adapt it to your taste and savor it over a long, lingering lunch.

Each serving has: 240 calories; 17.5 grams total fat; 10 grams protein; 5.5 grams carbohydrates; 25 milligrams cholesterol; 850 milligrams sodium and 2 grams dietary fiber

Prosciutto and Parmesan salad

Makes 2 servings.

2 cups baby spinach

2 cups baby arugula

3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped hazelnuts, preferably roasted

4 slices prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine spinach and arugula in a salad bowl or large platter. Sprinkle on cheese and hazelnuts. Arrange prosciutto on top.

Combine oil, vinegar and mustard in a cup. Stir well. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Pour over salad just before serving. Toss gently but well.

• Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).

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