Summer officially begins on Saturday, and for us, the solstice marks the time to take those evening strolls, garden in the cool of the day or steal a swim after work. We'll be celebrating summer's longer evenings by eating later — and eating lighter.

Today's Tomato-Swiss Bruschetta Sandwiches combine the best of two worlds, a gourmet appetizer and a toasted-cheese sandwich. Pick a fat, red-ripe tomato for this recipe, and you'll find this fast, stress-free supper really hits the spot.

The sandwiches are also flexible. You can use any type of cheese you like. (We use Swiss here but also love them with Parmesan or Brie.) The bread can be varied, too, so long as it's substantial enough to hold up to the juiciness of the tomato. Baguettes are the easiest shape to maneuver, but choose one that's not too skinny. (A diameter of about 3 1/2 to 4 inches is perfect.)

So make the most of that summer sunshine and treat yourself to a sublimely simple sandwich to finish off the longest day of the year.

Menu suggestion: Tomato-Swiss Bruschetta Sandwiches

Fat-free potato chips

Green grape clusters


Start to finish: 12 minutes

8 slices (1 1/2 inches thick) European-style baguette (for about 8 ounces total)

4 teaspoons bottled Italian vinaigrette dressing, or more to taste

2 large, medium-size ripe tomatoes (about 4 to 6 ounces each)

4 thin slices (about 4 ounces) Swiss cheese

16 fresh basil or arugula leaves or watercress sprigs, for garnish

Position an oven rack in the upper middle of the oven, and turn on the oven broiler. (A toaster oven also can be used if you cook in batches.)

Cut 8 slices of bread about 1 1/2 inches thick. Pour the vinaigrette, 1 teaspoon at a time, onto a small plate, such as a bread dessert plate. Swirl the plate to spread out the vinaigrette thinly. Dip the cut side of 1 piece of bread into the vinaigrette to coat it lightly. Place the bread, vinaigrette side up, on a large baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining slices, adding more vinaigrette to the plate as needed.

Core the tomatoes and cut them into roughly 1/4-inch-wide slices. Place 1 or 2 slices of tomato on each piece of bread, cutting the slices in half to fit and overlapping them if necessary. Cut the cheese slices in half, and place 1 piece over the tomato on each sandwich, again cutting and overlapping them as necessary to fit.

Place the baking sheet in the oven, and cook until the cheese begins to melt, about 4 to 5 minutes. (We're using the upper middle portion of the oven to give the tomato and bread time to warm before the cheese melts.) Remove the sandwiches from the oven. Use a metal spatula to remove the sandwiches to a serving plate, and garnish each sandwich with 2 basil or arugula leaves or a sprig of watercress. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.

Approximate values per serving: 370 calories (35 percent from fat), 15 g fat (6 g saturated), 26 mg cholesterol, 14 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 487 mg sodium.

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap.Fast.Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at © United Feature Syndicate Inc.