Sue Doeden: Market Day Macaroni Salad feeds a crowd
I was packing a little lunch for my husband to take to work when he pulled the huge bowl of Market Day Macaroni Salad from the refrigerator. "After sharing salad with the neighbors, there's still this much left?" I heard the disbelief in his voice.
I offered an early morning grin. "I guess I got a little carried away."
How could I help it? The sun was shining bright on the morning I stopped at the farmers market. Fresh vegetables were beautifully arranged, showing off their colors. The farmers were happy. Shoppers were buzzing with enthusiasm. With visions of macaroni salad dancing in my head, I quickly began filling my market bag with some of the summer's bounty.
After a quick stop at the grocery store for not one, but two boxes of macaroni rings, I was back in my kitchen ready to cook.
I hadn't had a salad made with macaroni rings in years. But when some friends invited me for dinner recently and served their own rendition of a salad full of rings with the meal, I actually became nostalgic. I was reminded of a salad my mom used to make with rings, kidney beans and hard-cooked eggs. She'd set a huge bowl of the salad on the table and my dad would exclaim, "My gosh, you've made enough to feed an army."
Just as I often do with pasta, I cooked the rings with a bay leaf and some garlic added to the water. The macaroni soaks up some of that great flavor. I like to cook the macaroni the night before I mix up the salad, allowing time for the rings to soak in a bath of bright flavors of orange and honey with mild rice vinegar.
Blanching broccoli and cauliflower before adding it to any kind of salad I make takes a little extra time, but just a minute in a pot of boiling water and then into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking gives the vegetables a nice tender crunch, eliminating the raw hardness. It's your choice.
Any of your favorite fresh vegetables can be stirred into this salad. If you have herbs growing in your garden, chop some up and add them just before serving. I hadn't used any of the tarragon from my garden and discovered it was a delicious addition to this salad.
The sweet and tangy dressing gives the big bowl of macaroni and vegetables just the right amount of flavor and consistency. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper and you've got a great salad. A great big bowl of salad!
Market Day Macaroni Salad is a nice accompaniment to any grilled meat. It's perfect for toting to a picnic on one of these last hot days of summer. Having a neighborhood block party? This salad will feed the whole crowd. But an army? Now that would be an exaggeration.
Market Day Macaroni Salad
2 (7-ounce) boxes macaroni rings
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 head broccoli
1 head cauliflower
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 medium red onions, chopped
2 large tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Add bay leaf and garlic clove to a large pot of water. Bring to a boil. Stir in macaroni rings. Cook for 6 minutes. Macaroni should be firm to the bite.
While macaroni is cooking, grate the zest of 1 orange and place in a small mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of juice from the orange. Use a whisk to mix in rice vinegar, honey, oil and salt.
Drain cooked macaroni. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pour liquid mixture over the hot macaroni and toss to coat. Set aside. (At this point, macaroni mixture can be refrigerated overnight). Remove bay leaf and garlic from cooked macaroni before proceeding.
Prepare broccoli and cauliflower by rinsing and cutting into small pieces. Blanch them, if desired. Add to macaroni mixture. Add remaining vegetables to bowl and toss together.
Mix salad dressing, cider vinegar and sugar together and pour over macaroni and vegetables. Gently toss to thoroughly coat salad ingredients. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. At serving time, top the salad with grated Parmesan. Serves a crowd.
Tips from the cook
--Rice vinegar has a very smooth, mild flavor. It can be purchased in all supermarkets, often found in the Asian food section.
--English cucumbers are often referred to as seedless or burpless. They are long and slender with tiny seeds and are bred to be easily digested, resulting in fewer burps.
--Add drained and rinsed black beans to the salad to create a complete meal. Cooked chunks of chicken or tuna from a can could also be added.