“It’s the plumber. I’ve come to fix the sink.”

If you are a child of the 60s or early 70s, chances are you know the Electric Company skit referred to in the title.

This refrain ran through my mind this past week when the handle on the kitchen sink faucet that lifts to let water flow seized up due to old age and rust.  Can’t lift the handle, can’t access water.  Simple as that.  Oddly enough, it’s hard to cook meals and clean up without running water.  Harder still to blog about what’s going on in the kitchen when nothing much, in fact, is going on.

The plumber came to do an emergency fix on crisis day, and returned today to replace the entire set of fixtures.  I’m officially back in the game.

Of course it’s a million degrees in the house today and I’m not cooking, but at least I can wash the dishes that pile up from the preparation of cold meals.

Cold.  Meals.  Music to my ears.  Here are a few ideas for cold lunches or suppers that you might use to get you through the next few dog days.  No hard and fast recipes, but follow along with the narrative, add your own twists or substitutions, and you’ll end up with meals that will satisfy summer appetites while keeping the kitchen heat in check.

Tuna and White Bean Salad

I don’t often advocate for opening cans, but some days beg for the loosening of kitchen rituals.  Keep canned white beans and tuna in your cupboard.  Turn to them when heat and humidity get the best of you.  Supplement these with all sorts of farm fresh goodies from your favorite stand or CSA for a salad that is both satisfying and lightly refreshing at the same time, and don’t feel guilty.  It’s hot.

This salad was introduced to me back in 1997 by Carolina Salter, at the time a fellow Navy spouse.  Carolina hails from Spain, and this is what the Spaniards eat when the temps rise.

Open and rinse one 15-ounce can of white cannellini beans, open and drain 2 cans of white tuna.  Set both aside.  Chop scallions or red onion, tomatoes, and parsley in quantities that suit your taste.  This time around, I used scallions and added Cider Hill’s pickling cucumbers and celery, both chopped, to some halved, mixed variety cherry tomatoes.

Combine whatever chopped vegetables you’ve chosen with the tuna and beans in a large bowl.  Toss with a few tablespoons of light lemon juice- or white wine-based vinaigrette, mixing together gently.  For the finish, I substituted the chopped celery leaves for the parsley (upper right corner of the photo – broader, meatier, more bitter than flat leaf parsley, but still with that clean taste) and served spoons full of salad on a few large romaine lettuce leaves, also from Cider Hill.

Please note that you can also use imported tuna packed in olive oil, slices of rare grilled tuna if you’re a griller (which I’m not during the week), or even leftover cooked, flaked salmon in this salad.  Shrimp would be nice too.

Crab Salad Served in an Avocado Half

You know I love lobster.  But there are times when crab is what I want instead.  Like tonight.  This is on tonight’s supper menu: crab salad piled into an avocado half.

It’s spa cuisine.  It’s grand hotel cuisine.  It seems fussy but it’s easy!  Serve with a slice of good bread and a green salad and you’ll feel like you’ve pampered yourself while eating smart to boot.

To 1/2 or 1 pound of crabmeat, use minimal amounts of good mayonnaise (this is a Hellman’s house, folks, and the “light” version is a tasty substitute for full fat) and only a handful of chopped celery.  Three ingredients – crab, mayo, celery – how easy is that?  Please do not use onion with delicate crab.  Please.  I beg you.

If you’re not an avocado person, stuff the crab salad into a buttered, grilled hot dog roll along with a crisp lettuce leaf.  Truth be told, I love it that way too.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Yes, this salad is everywhere.  Yes, it’s overdone.  Yes, it’s on menus during times of the year when it shouldn’t be.  And all these factors go a long way to sullying the combination of a few of life’s simplest but tastiest foods – tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil.  If you see Caprese Salad on any restaurant’s menu from October through early summer, run from it.  Run like the wind, my friends.

But if you happen to be at a farm store where all three are sold at their freshest, most seasonal best, buy them and make yourself a quick salad at home.  Tomatoes should be ripely red and juicy, basil leaves glossy green and almost waxy, and mozzarella mild but full of the taste of cream.

I like to stack my salad into a sort of cheese sandwich, with tomato slices as the bread.  Grind some black pepper over the top, add a sprinkle of some kind of coarse salt, and drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette, if you like.  But just olive oil is fine too.

Love your local farmers.  They – and their fresh foods – can be your best friends in the summer.

©2011 Jane A. Ward