It seemed to me like we went straight from winter to summer this year. I was on the east coast in North and South Carolina at the end of April. Many years it’s getting warm along the ocean by then. Not so this year. Once we got back, however, it started to warm up. Since it got hot, in May, it’s stayed that way.
In hot weather, my appetite for pot roast, meatloaf and hot, hearty soups disappears entirely. The closest I’m likely to come is a grilled hamburger or chicken breast.
Summer’s for fun. Even if you work full-time — it’s a state of mind. What’s not fun is a hot kitchen. What sounds good to me in hot weather is picnic food — chilled, light and savory without making you feel like you need a nap right after dinner.
Here’s a salad you can do ahead, pull out of the fridge and finish off half an hour before mealtime. Give yourself a break and save the hot and heavy meals for after the first frost next fall.
This salad is good at home or to take along to a picnic at a park or to a potluck. It doesn’t rely on mayonnaise, which can be downright dangerous in hot weather.
NO MAYO PASTA SALAD
4 ounces of fusilli pasta, cooked al dente, drained
1/2 cup small grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped chicken or salami or whole medium shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine
In a quart size jar place oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, capers, parsley and cilantro. Screw lid on tight and shake to mix thoroughly.
Fill a 6 quart pot half full of water. Boil water and add pasta. Cook just until al dente, about 7- 8 minutes. Drain.
Using a large bowl, fold meat or shrimp, pasta and tomatoes together. Toss with herb dressing. Chill for at least 2 hours, then add salt to taste, toss and serve.
Serves six to eight.
Add if you want: drained pitted black olives, chopped cucumbers, 1/4 cup Parmesan or feta cheese, a tablespoon of fresh chopped tarragon.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.