Simple cold dishes are perfect for back-to-school time



As back to school arrives and families start running in all directions with homework, sports, music lessons, rehearsal and dance, not to mention parents’ work schedules, a cold dinner that can be eaten whenever the troops are hungry has tremendous value.

What’s not to like?

In addition to the recipes below, a cold soup is a wonderful complement to round out this menu. Cold cucumber or watermelon gazpacho would be ideal.
In aristocratic English circles of days gone by, this type of repast was called a “cold collation” — and was offered to visiting guests when a full dinner was not possible due to staggered arrival times, a major social event or the household staff being given a night off.

This cold collation of dishes covers the food groups and offers a mix of the familiar with the novel. Leftovers are great in lunchboxes, and parents can feel confident that their offspring are well nourished, even on the fly.

Tuna with a twist
Serves 4 to 6 as part of a cold buffet

3 cans white albacore tuna in water, well drained and broken up with fork
1 scallion, sliced, white and green parts
1 carrot, chopped finely
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
¼ cup parsley, chopped finely
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
Generous dousing of salt and pepper
Hot sauce, if desired

Mix all ingredients well.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pasta salad with peas
Serves 6
1 pound penne or other short pasta cooked to al dente, according to package directions and cooled (I used high-protein enriched pasta for maximum nutritional benefit.)
1 package frozen peas, cooked, drained and cooled
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate.
Serve well chilled.

Tomato, basil and mozzarella salad
Serves 4 to 6

2 heirloom tomatoes, cut in bite-sized pieces (If heirlooms are not available, substitute 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half.)
10 basil leaves, rinsed and cut in ribbons
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut in bite-sized chunks
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in a shallow bowl and toss well.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Spiced watermelon
This is best presented as a do-it-yourself arrangement. I love the sweetness of watermelon fused with the tang of lime, the brine of salt and the kick of chili — but some don’t. My suggestion is to serve the watermelon in a bowl with the fixings on the side, so diners can choose their preferred combo.

1 watermelon, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lime, cut in wedges
Coarse salt (kosher, Maldon, Himalayan, whatever your cabinet contains)
Powdered chili pepper: chipotle, cayenne, or ancho

Squeeze the lime over the watermelon. Sprinkle with salt and chili.

Keri White is a Philadelphia food writer.

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