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Summer cooking at home needn't be taxing "Here are five fast ideas I use for good food without heating up the kitchen too much."

It's midsummer and the living is easy. So what could be better than cooking at home?

Cooking without too much exertion, I mean -- with less effort required than it would take to put on your shoes and visit a good (or even a bad) restaurant.

Here are five fast ideas I use for good food without heating up the kitchen too much.

Understand that these recipes are not written in stone and I'm not Fannie Farmer (she is said to be the first cookbook writer to give specific measurements.)

So feel free to taste as you go and vary ingredients and seasonings as you like. Add some real, fresh fruit or ice cream and dinner is done.

1. Fresh Spaghetti Sauce: Take 3 medium fresh tomatoes; peel and seed. Throw into a food processor with a couple of cloves of peeled garlic, four leaves of torn fresh basil and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Pulse until tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Add salt and pepper to taste and let stand while you boil up a pound of spaghetti. Drain.

Pour the sauce over the spaghetti and serve along with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 2 to 4 servings. (You can heat the sauce very gently if you insist. )

2. Ratatouille Omelet: First make the ratatouille by heating some olive oil in a saucepan and adding a clove of crushed garlic and a chopped onion; saute stirring, until onion is soft -- not brown. Add a cubed small eggplant and a finely diced green pepper stir and cook about 10 minutes. Then, add a couple of sliced zucchini (small ones, please), basil, oregano and parsley to taste; cook slowly about 10 minutes until the eggplant is soft. (You can do this a day ahead and refrigerate if you're smart). Then make an omelet with eight eggs. Top it or fill it with the ratatouille. Great!

3. Corn Fritters: What to do with leftover cooked corn: Take a box of pancake mix and prepare the batter according to package directions. Fold in the corn and bake pancakes on a lightly greased hot griddle, turning once. Serve with maple syrup.

4. Vegetarian Baked Potatoes: Bake four large russet potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh, leaving the shells intact. Mix the potato flesh with chopped celery, some sauteed mushrooms and diced green pepper. Fold in about one and half cups of drained sauerkraut. Stuff this mixture back into the shells, top with some grated cheese and run it under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Makes 4 servings.

5. Easy Mac Salad: Cook a pound package of elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain; rinse with cold water and drain again; place in a large bowl. Cook some bacon, drain and dice.

Add chopped celery to the pasta (with a few leaves if you like), a small diced tomato, a large can of tuna -- drained and flaked -- and the bacon. Season with salt and pepper and add vinegar/oil salad dressing or mayonnaise to make a nice consistency. Chill if you have time and serve.


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