Monday, July 10, 2017

A Summer Stand-by Salad

As I've shared over the past few summers, our family enjoys cool salads as we cope with the peak heat season. One of our standbys is, what is for us, a traditional macaroni salad. The recipe I will be sharing is my attempt at quantifying the recipe that I have been using since my elementary school days.
For fun, I tried to get a sense of the history of the macaroni salad. In general, a "macaroni salad" differs from a "pasta salad" in that the macaroni salad is traditionally a mayonnaise-based salad whereas the pasta salad is traditionally a vinaigrette-based salad. 
I was able to locate a recipe for macaroni salad dating back to 1916. This recipe uses a combination/mixture of whipping cream, horseradish, sugar and salt in place of the mayonnaise. Another interesting thing about this recipe is that it seems that, at that time, macaroni was sold in long sticks. After the sticks were cooked, they were then cut into pieces for use in the salad. Another interesting thing is that the cooked pieces were placed in pickled beet juice to "dye" them a pink color before mixing them into the salad.
I've also found a wide variety of ingredients that have been included in macaroni salads. These include chopped eggs, onions, potatoes, shrimp, sweet or dill pickles, olives, or chicken. Most sources indicate that the typical pasta that is included in macaroni salads is elbow macaroni. I've typically made my salads with ditalini (also called salad macaroni) or small shell macaroni.
Here's how I put my salad together:
First, a picture of the ingredients. Trying to quantify what I have just put together over the years is a bit challenging. A picture of what will go into the salad might be more helpful.
16 ounces of pasta - I have a preference for small shells but use what you like
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of radishes
1 chopped cucumber
Chopped, cubed cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and chill.
2. Slice the green onions and radishes. I like to include some of the green parts of the onions. Depending on how big the radishes are, I may cut the slices in halves or quarters.
3. Now to cut up the cucumber and cheese. Here you can get an idea as to how much cheese I typically use and the size of the pieces I use.
4. Stir in some salt and pepper and mix the ingredients together.
5. Stir in the pasta and the mayonnaise - use as much mayonnaise as desired to moisten all of the ingredients.
6. Serve with a favorite main dish. We enjoyed our salad with some grilled teriyaki burgers.
Happy summer and happy eating!