Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: Perfect pasta for hazy days of summer

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I am one of those rare New Englanders who live for the "dog days of August." I love the three H's — heat, haze and humidity. The thought of those days are what sustain me in February as I commute down Route 7 in a blizzard, part of a string of traffic going 35 miles per hour and still siding all over the road.

So, when I was on vacation last week and the three H's arrived, I was thrilled. I got up in the morning — 6 a.m. since my Lab, Sassy, doesn't get the notion of sleeping later on vacation — and enjoyed coffee on the deck while watching the neighborhood come to life. From there, I did a few household chores as I could, for on vacation, even stacking the dirty dishes in the dishwasher seems like a monumental task. Not only was I anti-housework, I was also anti-laundry, which was no problem since I was spending most of my time in a bathing suit.

The only real obstacle to thoroughly enjoying the heat hit me daily around 5 p.m. — suppertime. I ordered pizza one night and went through a fast-food drive-thru another (I justified it by telling myself I was taking the dog for a ride so she could cool down in the air-conditioned car). But after a few nights, I wanted something a bit more substantial and homemade, yet nothing that would require heating the house up.

I dug in my recipe box and came up with a grilled chicken and pasta salad. I used a package of pre-grilled chicken breast from the supermarket's meat department. A rotissere chicken would work too.

Chicken and pasta salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 package (8 ounces) pasta, uncooked

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1 bottle (8 ounces) Italian salad dressing

2 cups leaf lettuce, torn

1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast halves, grilled or broiled and sliced

Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions. In large bowl, combine all ingredients except the chicken and lettuce; mix well. Cover and chill. Before serving, stir in lettuce; arrange chicken on top. Serve with Parmesan cheese.


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