Warming to summer...

Sleep deprivation is in full swing. With the summer heat now upon us, our homes are too hot to sleep comfortably in. And the summer evenings are so mild and beautiful, that the conversations linger - no one is in a hurry. But when the light comes up in the morning, if you are savvy you throw your legs over the edge of the bed and get to the kitchen. On the way, all the windows and doors are opened to let the cool morning air circulate through the musty rooms.

Fill the pans with cold water for the pasta, vegetables and eggs. While they are coming to a boil, rush out to the garden to set the sprinklers. Fighting your way through the spider webs brings a final sense of being awake in spite of the short hours of sleep.

Slip the eggs into the water, wait for the huge pan to come to a boil for the pasta, and rummage through the vegetable bags to see what needs to be cooked today before it quietly mulches itself completely in the refrigerator's produce drawers.

Then there are the limp herbs to refresh, the lettuce that has gone south, the beautiful new head of lettuce from the Farmers Market to be washed, the fruits on the kitchen window sill that need to be refrigerated - all of these jobs to be dealt with in between working with the different "doneness" that is happening on the stove.

Dousing the vegetables in cold water to stop the cooking and finding an appropriate container for storage can cause the pasta to slip past the perfect al dente state. But it gets its slap of cold water, and soft, cold pasta salad is usually quite passable, with enough olive oil and crunchy celery and onions and those refreshed herbs. But that combination will be created later in the day.

The payoff for all this frenetic morning activity arrives at that moment when the "idea for dinner" flickers across your mind, usually when the heat is up and the nerves are frayed. After a day filled with horrible traffic, missed appointments, annoying co-workers and some unpleasant e-mail missives, the fruit of your early morning kitchen work is such a quiet, yet exquisite, joy. In the heat of the late afternoon, the stove does not have to be turned on.

With a cool drink in hand, the cutting board comes out and the gentle slicing, dicing and mixing of herbs, onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, oils, mayonnaise, lemon or lime juice can proceed. In 20 or 30 minutes a fresh and tasty salad is ready.

It all sounds a bit too idyllic, doesn't it?

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