I absolutely love this weather we've been having. Some people cringe when they hear the meteorologists utter the phrase, "the three H's," referring to heat, humidity and haze. For me, the three H's are more like hip-hip-hooray!
As everyone who knows me well can attest, for some reason, I seem to run 10 degrees colder than most people. Even during nights like the recent ones, I like to snuggle under the comforter. (During the winter, it's flannel sheets and at least two comforters.)
I've never been a big fan of air conditioning. As I sit here in The Berkshire Eagle newsroom, I'm wearing a sweatshirt jacket. When we redid the house a few years ago, we had ceiling fans installed in every room -- and even one on the deck. The gentle breeze is more than enough to keep me cool.
I spent most of the July 4th holiday, doing "water meditation" (my friend Nancy refers to it as "Zen floating) on a raft in our backyard pool. I contemplated such issues as: Why does a cloud bank always obscure the sun right after I've applied a liberal coat of sun block? Why does the radio station on the boom box drift only after I'm on the raft in the middle of the pool? And my perennial question to ponder: What the heck am I going to make for dinner that doesn't require much work or heating up the stove or oven (or in weather like this, even sweating over the grill)?
One of my go-to dishes is macaroni salad with tuna. When I'm cooking the pasta, I throw in a handful or two of frozen mixed veggies to cook at the same time. Once the pasta and veggies are cooked, I rinse them in cold water and drain, then mix them in a bowl with two cans of drained tuna (or a pouch of thawed, drained salad shrimp), some diced onion or shallot, and my favorite mayonnaise. A little fresh ground pepper and dinner is made. I like to put it together in the morning and let it chill all day in the refrigerator.
I'm big on pasta salads in the summer. They require little cooking or prep time and can be used as the main course with the addition of shellfish, poultry or meat. This recipe for a grilled veggie and pasta salad features pasta mixed with grilled seasonal veggies -- bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms and onions (or whatever you like).
I also cube up any leftover chicken I may have from a previous meal and add it to the salad. Rather than heating up the large grill on the deck, I cook the veggies on the small electric grill in the kitchen. You can use whatever pasta shape you want -- rotini, rainbow rotini, shells and wagon wheels are among my favorites.
Grilled Vegetable and Pasta Salad
Chop 3 cups of assorted seasonal vegetables into medium-sized chunks. Grill vegetables on skewers, basted with Italian salad dressing.
Mix the grilled vegetables in a large bowl with a package of pasta (cooked and drained), 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, chicken or shrimp if desired, and an additional 3/4 to 1 cup Italian dressing. Chill at least 1 hour before serving. (If the salad looks dry, toss with a bit more salad dressing just before serving.
I love dessert and this no-cook one from my mother-in-law, Corinne Button, is an oldie-but-a goodie!
Chocolate Chocolate Icebox Dessert
1 package plain chocolate wafers (Famous Wafers)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat together cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff. Spread a strip of whipped cream down the center of a serving plate to put the cookies on.
Spread a generous spoonful on each cookie and stack them on their sides on the whipped cream on the plate to make a long log. (Reserve about 1/3 of the whipped cream for frosting the outside of the "cake.") Cover the entire log with the reserved whipped cream thickly and thoroughly. Be sure to get all the way around the sides of the cookies with the cream. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least eight hours. Slice on a diagonal to serve.
My apologies: A few weeks ago, I printed a recipe for Nick's Killer Beans. A reader asked me the other night whether the beans called for in the recipe were dry or already cooked canned beans. Call it a dumb blonde moment -- when I typed in the recipe for my column, I omitted that the 1 pound of kidney beans and the 1 pound of pea beans were dry and should be soaked overnight and then drained. I'll be more diligent from here on!
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.