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RISMEDIA, July 28, 2011—(MCT)—In this heat, the last thing I want to do is cook. All the energy I can muster most nights in this “I can’t believe it’s not August” weather, even in the cool of our air-conditioned house, is to fix myself a bowl of cereal and call it a night.

I admit that’s a luxury of being one-half of a married couple without children. My husband can fend for himself.

But I can’t get away with that very often, given my husband’s passion for vegetable gardening. This spring, he planted corn, peppers, cantaloupes, watermelons, four kinds of beans, about a dozen types of tomatoes from Pearly Pink to Roman Candles and more.

Now his crop is coming in, and we are inundated with fresh produce that’s as local as it gets. Matt’s argument to get me into the kitchen is strong: I worked hard to grow these vegetables. You should cook them.

Eventually, I am won over by his reasoning and my Catholic guilt. It breaks my heart to see our garden’s yield go to waste or be thrown into the compost bin.

So I’ve been scouring cookbooks for recipes to get me in and out of the kitchen quickly.

My favorite so far is an uncooked pasta sauce that’s very adaptable. I cut up tomatoes and toss them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. I add rinsed capers, briny olives and slivered basil to taste. I let it sit while I cook the pasta. Even on the hottest days, I can handle 10 minutes of stove-top cooking. If I don’t feel like cooking pasta, I toast slices of good bread and make bruschetta.

I share the original recipe that inspired my adaptations and urge you to try it and use what you have on hand: black olives instead of fancy ones, Parmesan cheese instead of feta. Best of all, the pasta is good cold the next day.

Pasta with Uncooked Tomatoes, Basil, Capers, Olives and Feta

This sauce becomes even better if it sits for an hour or so. If you want to maintain the basil’s vivid color, leave it out until just before serving. From “Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes from the World’s Healthiest Cuisine,” by Martha Rose Shulman.

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3 cups chopped fresh ripe tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
• 11/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
• 1/2 cup halved or chopped black Italian or Greek olives, such as Gaeta or kalamata
• 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3/4 pound penne or fusilli
• 2 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

Combine the olive oil, tomatoes, capers, olives, parsley, basil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes or longer.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, drain and toss at once with the tomato sauce and feta. Serve hot or at room temperature. Yield: 4 servings.

(c) 2011, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).