Light fresh salads are a natural evening meal after a sweltering summer day, but often don't constitute a ld,10 sw,-2 sk,2 meal in themselves. Whether you plan a jumble of fresh fruit tossed with coconut milk and lime, a bowl of mixed vegetables spiked with a piquant mustard or herb dressing or a composed salad featuring cold meat or seafood, it's much more satisfying if you have a special loaf of bread to serve with it.

Bread is a natural foil for a salad, providing contrasting texture and complementary nutritional elements. And Cottage Cheese Oatmeal Batter Bread is a natural to fill that role.

It's a time saver in that it requires no kneading and takes only 2 1/2 hours from start to finish. It contains the natural fiber of whole-wheat flour and rolled oats and the dairy protein of fresh cottage cheese. It can be baked in the cool of the morning and served at room temperature at brunch or the evening meal.

Two or three tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, chives or basil, can be added to the batter with the oatmeal to give a more aromatic effect. Or about 1 teaspoon of bruised dill, celery, fennel or caraway seed can be added with the oatmeal and another teaspoon sprinkled on top of the loaves just before baking.

Leftovers are wonderful toasted for breakfast or slathered with pesto for lunch. All in all, it is a bread that can be whipped up after you get home from work, but in time for dinner, or between the breakfast dishes and the baby's nap, and it is a cut above what you would pick up at the deli or bakery. It should become a fast favorite -- even in the winter when a steaming pot of soup replaces the cool summer salad bowl.

COTTAGE CHEESE OATMEAL BATTER BREAD (Makes 2 medium-size loaves)

3 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 ( 1/4-ounce) packages dry yeast

2 cups cream-style, small curd cottage cheese

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs

1 cup regular rolled oats

Melted butter for brushing tops

Combine 1 cup of the flour and the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. In a saucepan, combine the cottage cheese, honey, water, butter, salt and baking soda and heat to 120 degrees and stir until blended. Remove from the heat.

Add the cottage cheese mixture to the flour and yeast mixture and beat about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs and beat until blended. Add 1 cup flour and beat 1 minute more at medium speed and then work in the remaining flour and the oats.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Stir down with a wooden spoon and beat it briefly. Turn the batter into 2 greased 1-quart casseroles. Brush the tops with butter and let the bread rise, loosely covered, in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes. Let the bread cool in the casseroles for about 10 minutes and then turn out to cool on wire racks. Brush the tops with melted butter.