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



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


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.