Too hot to cook? This pasta salad is easy to make and totally flexible too. Credit: Sandy Oliver | BDN

It’s too darn hot and humid. Just about too hot to cook, even on a grill outdoors. Cool food is the only answer, and it better be home cooked, because who wants to change clothes, climb into a hot car and drive somewhere to eat outside in the humidity?

Well, not me.

I’ve barely got the ambition to spread peanut butter on crackers, and were it not for other people in the household who appreciate the effort I put into assembling some fresh food for a cool, calm meal, I might not bother.

All I’m going to cook is pasta, then build on that with anything that doesn’t need heat. Recently a Mediterranean-inspired salad with black olives, tuna, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a bed of lettuce, topped with vinaigrette, provided us with a satisfying supper. Had I paid attention to the forecast, I could have cooked pasta, more than enough, on a cooler day and put it in the fridge to pull out as needed. Same thing goes for potatoes so I’d have the makings of a potato salad at a hot moment’s notice.

You are all probably too smart to miss that opportunity.

With the directions below, use as much of each of the ingredients as you think you’ll enjoy. If you have a hungry group, use more pasta. Leave out anything you don’t like and use more of whatever you have most of. Use as a side or main dish. It is too hot to overthink this.

Other cool comforts include a favorite marinated cucumber and onion mixture with sweet and sour brine which I offered up here years ago. It’s a pretty steady occupant of the fridge these days, perfect for fishing out and forking onto a plate alongside nearly anything. Two cucumbers, a small onion, both sliced thinly (on a mandolin if you have one) then one cup each of cider vinegar and sugar, a bit of salt, all well mixed and poured over the sliced vegetables and set away to chill with just enough water added to cover them. Give them a couple hours to get acquainted. Cool as a, well, cucumber, and easily put together.

Dessert? How about the no-churn ice cream that needs only a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk with a couple tablespoons of bourbon or vanilla to taste mixed in and a pint of whipping cream beaten and then folded into the milk? Want chocolate? A bit of cocoa powder stirred into the milk, or even some instant coffee, then add the whipped cream, put it into a container with a lid and freeze it. Start early in the day and by evening you’ll have your ice cream.

Feeling too hot and lazy to whip cream? I don’t blame you. How about fresh raspberries or blueberries with a pour of cream and a sprinkle of sugar? Delicious.

These days the only cool place in this house is the cellar, which has, by the way, needed a good cleaning for months. Instead of cooking up a hot old storm, I’m seriously thinking of throwing together a nice cold salad for supper and heading to the basement to see what I can get done down there.

Mediterranean-Inspired Pasta Salad

Servings vary

Penne or other short pasta, cooked and cooled

Cucumber lightly peeled and diced, to taste

Minced shallot or scallions white and tender green parts, chopped

Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped, to taste

Red pepper, finely chopped

Feta cheese, crumbled, to taste

Cherry tomatoes, halved, to taste

Tuna, canned, to taste

Vinaigrette dressing

Washed and torn lettuce

Toss together the pasta, cucumber, shallot or scallions, olives, red pepper, feta, tomatoes and tuna.

Add the vinaigrette, tossing and sampling until the flavor suits you.

Distribute the lettuce on plates for each person and spoon the dressed salad on top.

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...