Cold foods are always a hot item in summer. Most can be prepared ahead, and some even benefit from a few hours of refrigeration. If you do make the food before company arrives, you can produce a wonderful ''ta-da'' effect by excusing yourself from your guests, dashing to the refrigerator, and appearing mere seconds later with a beautiful dinner display.
The following recipe is long but simple. All you really have to know how to do is boil water. Lots of water. Attractively displayed on a handsome large charger or shell, the results can be spectacular. New England Seafood and Pasta Salad 1/2 pound medium pasta shells 1/2 pound green (spinach) pasta noodles 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1/2 medium onion, grated 2 tablespoons capers 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon dill weed 1/4 pound snow peas 1 pound medium shrimp 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound lobster 2 dozen mussels or clams Salt and pepper Tarragon Basil 1 bay leaf 1 clove garlic
Cook pasta in separate pots according to directions on package. Do not overcook. Drain and cool slighty.
Toss shells with mayonnaise, onion, and capers. Toss green pasta with olive oil and dillweed.
Blanch snow peas in boiling water for 2 minutes; drain and cool.
Bring a pot of water to boiling, add shrimp, and remove immediately from heat. Let stand no more than 3 to 4 minutes. Cool under running water to stop cooking process. Remove shells except for tips of tails.
In a pot large enough to hold lobster, bring water to a boil and add lobster. Cover and boil 12 to 15 minutes. Remove lobster and cool. Break off tail and remove meat all in one piece with fork. Reserve tail shell. Slice or chop tail meat.
Combine mussels in covered pot with salt and pepper to taste, a pinch or two of tarragon and basil, bay leaf, and garlic. Add 1 cup boiling water and boil until shells open. Drain and cool.
Place cooked pasta shells in center of a large, attractive plate. Arrange shrimps, mussels in shells, snow peas, and chopped lobster meat on pasta.
Surround with green pasta for a seaweed effect. Connect empty lobster tail shell to body of lobster and place on top or side of dish. Meat from claws and body may be eaten after dish is presented or reserved for later use.
Chill before serving.
The following beet salad is wonderfully colorful and makes an excellent side dish with any kind of barbecued meat or fish. Beet Salad Julienne 4 to 5 medium-size beets 1 clove garlic, minced 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard 6 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar Salt and pepper to taste 5 to 7 large lettuce leaves 1/4 cup chopped black olives, optional garnish
Cook beets in covered pan of boiling water until almost tender. Test with skewer. Cool, peel and cut in 1/8-inch slices, then cut slices in 1/8-inch strips or use julienne blade in food processor.
Combine rest of ingredients, except olives, in large bowl. Mix thoroughly with fork or whisk. Add beets and mix again. Cover and refrigerate until cool.
Before serving, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Place in bowl-like arrangement of leaf lettuce. Garnish with olives. Stuffed Italian Eggs 8 eggs, hard boiled 5 tablespoons soft butter 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 2 tablespoons chopped capers 1 teaspoon olive oil 8 anchovy filets rinsed, patted dry, and cut in half lenthwise Paprika
Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and blend with remaining ingredients except anchovy filets.
Stuff egg whites with mixture and top with crosses of anchovy filets.
Sprinkle each with dash of paprika.
Hickory smoked breast of turkey is available in many supermarkets in 1- to 2 -pound vacuum packs. It is rather expensive, but this salad stretches it and provides a deliciously different taste to a rather traditional dish. Smoked Turkey and White Grape Salad
2 cups chopped smoked turkey breast 1/2 cup celery 1/4 cup sliced water chestnuts 1/4 cup diced sweet red or green pepper 1 cup mayonnaise 1 cup white seedless grapes Lettuce
Combine and mix all ingredients except grapes in large bowl. Add grapes before serving salad on lettuce.