I did some googling hoping to find a contemporaneous ladies lunch menu out of California–spent too much time and couldn’t fnd what I was looking for. I suspect, if I did find one, being California, the menu would be geared toward healthy living I suspect — salads, Mexican influenced vegetarian, fruit not calorie-laden ladies lunches of yore.
Southern Living, however, came through. A Retro variation really of ladies lunch classics that appealed to me–cold tomato soup, chicken salad and a gelatin mold. Called “congealed” salad down South.
Tomato Basil Soup departs from Cambell’s instructions. 2 cans of soup are simmered for 6-8 minutes with a 14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes, 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of minced fresh basil, a quarter tsp of pepper. Serve with parmesan cheese. Personally, I would puree it into a bisque, and serve it totally chilled instead.
Southern Living’s Tarragon Chicken Salad is like a Chicken Waldorf Salad. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small pan and add 3/4 cup of coarsely chopped pecans over medium-low heat for 6 minutes or until fragrant, shaking pan now and then. While that’s happening, mix a cup of mayonnaise with 3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon, a teaspoon of lemon zest, a tablespoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together in large bowl 4 cups of chicken breast meat that has been seasoned, cooked and cooled (these days I bake rather than simmer chicken for salads), a cup of celery (I think I’d like more celery) and a cup and a half of diced Granny Smith apples. Stir in mayonnaise mixture and chill at least two hours or up to twenty-four. When ready to serve, stir in half a cup of the pecans. Serve on individual plates, sprinkle with the rest of the pecans and then add to the plates this . . . .
Cranberry/Strawberry Salad. Coarsely chop 1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries in a food processor. Stir together with 2 cups fresh strawberries and half a cup of sugar. In a separate bowl stir together 3 packages of strawberry gelatin with 2 cups of boiling water until dissolved. Stir in 2 cups chilled cranberry juice and refrigerate 30 minutes. Stir in an 8 oz can of undrained crushed pineapple and a cup of diced celery. Chill until firm, cut into squares. (who has twelve individual salad molds as recipe asks for??)
Biscuits or a small croissant and an easy-to-make dessert would roundout this menu for me.