Some folks welcome the routine that back to school generates, not just for the kids, but for adults, as well.

As parents again step into the school lunch-making routine, I look forward to my own annual upgrade of take-to-work lunches.

This year, my inspiration stems from a summertime visit to the Great Northern Food Hall in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Amazing rye bread and a stunning selection of smørrebrød propelled me into my own kitchen.

Smørrebrød, literally butter and bread, an open-face sandwich tradition from Denmark, deserves attention. One slice of bread with brilliant toppings just works — especially in an era when many of us are reducing our bread consumption.

The smørrebrød in the Northern Food Hall are made on moist, dense, slightly sweet whole-grain rye bread spread with an incredible butter. At home, I look for super-dense whole-grain rye or pumpernickel bread.

Then I buy the best butter I can afford — these days there are butter choices everywhere. I like unsalted butter, but use salted if that’s your thing. The butter does more than add flavor and calories — it acts like a moisture barrier between the bread and the topping, effectively preventing soggy bread.

There’s no doubt that the artful arrangement of toppings on the buttered bread makes them irresistible.

At home, I select top-quality meats and cheeses, cooked fish, interesting vegetables and crunchy fruit. I also make rich protein salads, such as salmon salad and egg salad. They hold up well in the refrigerator for most of the workweek. Then I add contrasting textural components just before serving.

True, closed sandwiches are easier to transport (so feel free to add a top layer of bread). When serving them open-faced, offer a knife and fork and spend time on some garnishes. Fresh herbs, sliced small tomatoes and shavings of carrot make easy garnishes. So do slices of pickle or radish.

To pack, consider investing in reusable, attractive to-go containers. Separate compartments prove ideal for toting moist fillings, such as egg salad, apart from the bread and lettuce.

For those forgoing bread (it’s my Kryptonite), I must say that the salmon mixture and the deviled egg salad taste great tucked into romaine lettuce leaves or spread on Belgian endive spears.

To round out my take-along lunch, I make another traditional recipe: gazpacho — Spain’s cold, refreshing soup usually reliant upon tomatoes. For variety, I use herbs and cucumber for a green gazpacho that enlivens any day. Make the vegetable base in advance, and then blend in avocado for a creamy texture. The soup keeps in the refrigerator for a few days; I pack it in jars with tightfitting lids to transport easily.

Soup and sandwich — updated — from timeless traditions.

Double Salmon and Chives on Rye

Makes about 3 cups, or 6 servings.

Note: This salmon spread also tastes great on a toasted pumpernickel bagel. From the Chicago Tribune.

• 1 (8-oz.) pkg. light cream cheese, softened

• 1/4 c. sour cream

• Finely grated lemon zest from ½ lemon

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 2 to 3 dashes red pepper hot sauce, optional

• 1/4 c. finely chopped fresh fennel bulb (or celery)

• 1/4 c. finely diced roasted red bell pepper (homemade or jarred)

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh chives

• 4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped, about 1 c.

• 1 (6-oz.) can wild Alaskan red or pink salmon, drained, flaked

• Soft butter, optional

• 6 to 12 slices hearty rye bread

• Garnishes: Fresh fennel fronds, shaved fresh fennel bulb, sliced tomato, thin apple slices


Stir softened cream cheese and sour cream together in medium bowl until smooth. Stir in lemon zest, salt, pepper and hot sauce until well mixed. Stir in fennel, red pepper and chives. Fold in smoked and canned salmon. Refrigerate covered up to 3 or 4 days.

To assemble sandwiches, spread a thin layer of soft butter (if using) over one side of a slice of bread. Top with a 1/2-inch-thick schmear of the salmon mixture. Garnish as desired. Serve with a knife and fork. (Or top with a second slice of buttered bread, and skip the utensils.)

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 249 Fat 10 g Sodium 733 mg

Carbohydrates 19 g Saturated fat 4 g Total sugars 5 mg

Protein 18 g Cholesterol 57 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Deviled Egg Salad Sandwiches

Serves 4.

Note: This salad also tastes great on slices of toasted baguette, ciabatta rolls or whole-wheat bread. From the Chicago Tribune.

• 8 large eggs

• 1/2 c. mayonnaise

• 1/2 tsp. dry mustard

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1/4 c. finely minced fresh onion, rinsed well before using

• 1 small rib celery, finely minced

• 1 to 2 tsp. drained capers, chopped (or use cornichons or dill pickle)

• Softened butter, optional

• 4 to 8 slices hearty rye bread

• Sweet paprika

• Chopped fresh chives


To hard-cook eggs, put them in a single layer in the bottom of a large saucepan. Add cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Heat over high heat to a boil. (Watch closely.) Boil for 1 minute — use a timer. Immediately turn off heat and set the timer for 14 minutes. When the timer rings, carefully pour off the hot water and fill the pan with cold water and a couple of handfuls of ice cubes to chill the eggs fast. Let stand until eggs feel cool. Remove from water, and refrigerate covered for several days.

Mix mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in onion, celery and capers. Peel eggs. Put 6 on a cutting board; chop roughly with a large knife. Add the chopped egg to the mayonnaise mixture; fold together gently. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Thinly slice the remaining 2 eggs.

To assemble sandwiches, spread a thin layer of soft butter (if using) over one side of a slice of bread. Top with a 1/2-inch-thick schmear of the egg mixture. Top with sliced egg, a sprinkle of paprika and fresh chives. Serve with a knife and fork. (Or top with a second slice of buttered bread.)

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 412 Fat 31 g Sodium 811 mg

Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 7 g Total sugars 2 mg

Protein 15 g Cholesterol 384 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Cucumber and Avocado Gazpacho with Grapes

Makes 4 cups.

Note: From the Chicago Tribune.

• 1 large seedless cucumber, 14 to 15 oz., ends removed

• 1 c. vegetable broth

• 4 green onions, trimmed, chopped (or 1/4 c. roughly chopped chives)

• 1/2 small jalapeño, halved, seeded

• Leaves from 1 large sprig mint, about 1 tbsp., roughly chopped

• 1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted

• Juice of 1/2 lime, or more to taste

• 1/2 to 1 tsp. salt

• Seedless red grapes, cut in half

• Diced ripe avocado

• Chopped chives


Use a vegetable peeler to remove and discard half of the cucumber peel. (This helps prevent bitterness.) Roughly chop the cucumber. You should have 3 loosely packed cups.

Put cucumber, broth, onions, jalapeño and mint leaves into a blender. Process until very smooth. Refrigerate in the blender jar, covered, about 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Scoop avocado pulp into the soup base in the blender. Add lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt as desired. Refrigerate up to 1 day.

To serve, pour into soup bowls. Garnish with grapes, diced avocado and chives.

Nutrition information per serving of 1 cup:

Calories 101 Fat 8 g Sodium 334 mg

Carbohydrates 9 g Saturated fat 1 g Total sugars 2 mg

Protein 2 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 5 g