This is not your mother’s macaroni salad!
Sugar snap peas are in! I was delighted to find them on the shelf of my local farm stand this week. These spring treasurers are as delicious as they are fleeting, so we eat them as frequently as I can at this time of year. They are at their absolute best simply steamed and tossed with butter and a little salt.
That is how we had our new batch when our family gathered for the first time in 18 months for a celebration of my husband’s birthday and early Fathers Day. It was a special time, all of us together again, the weather cooperated for our cook-out, and there wasn’t a pea left on the platter when we finished.
We often have them served up with new baby carrots, in a cold soup, lightly blanched and used as a dipper on a crudité platter, and sauteed with garlic and coconut. But they really shine in salads!
A macaroni salad when I was growing up consisted of macaroni, canned tuna, peas, celery, and onion in a mayonnaise base. We loved it, but it rarely varied. When I think of a “pasta” salad today, it usually has a lighter vinaigrette, and we like to swap out different pastas, often using shells, fusilli, farfalle, or penne. I think of the pasta and vinaigrette as the base, and add lots of whatever is freshest and most delicious at the market. Each salad is pretty much unique.
Let the ingredients lead the way
In this case, the sugar snaps were calling my name, I also gathered beautiful scallions and plump shallots, and had an abundance of dill in my own herb bed, so the best ingredients led the way. I found some lovely Italian orzo at the co-op, and it was perfect here.
My little tip in this recipe is to blanch the peas first and fish them out of the water with a strainer or spider. Don’t drain the water out, it is beautifully flavored by the peas and will add to the taste of the pasta.
This makes a lot! Perfect for a family gathering or cook-out, and since it is made without mayonnaise, it is a much better keeper for outside events. You can substitute a gluten-free pasta if you like. Also, a can of sustainably harvested tuna would be delightful here if you consume fish, or mash up a few anchovies in the dressing!
Sugar Snap and Orzo salad with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette
- 2 large shallots, finely minced, about 1/3 cup or a little more
- 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- Zest of two lemons, divided
- 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh dill weed, plus garnish
- 3 scallions, sliced on diagonal, plus garnish
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. fresh black pepper
- ½ cup fruity olive oil
- 1 lb. sugar snap peas
- 1 lb. orzo pasta
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
Put a large pot of water on to boil while you prep vegetables.
In a large bowl, add the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, zest of one lemon, honey, dill weed, salt, scallions, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil and mix well. Let this set while you cook the peas and pasta. This will cut the bite of the shallots.
Prep the peas by snapping off the stem and removing the string in one movement. Chop the peas on the diagonal into three or four pieces. Once the water is boiling, add 2 tbsp. salt and the peas. Bring back to the boil, and cook for a minute or two, or until the peas are tender. Using a strainer or mesh spider, remove the peas, leaving the water in the pot. Immediately place the peas in a strainer and rinse under cold water until no longer warm. Shake excess moisture off and add to the vinaigrette.
Bring the pea water back to a boil. Not only does this save time and a pot, the water will be delightfully flavored of pea, so you don’t want to waste it! Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain but don’t rinse, the starch adds to the creaminess of the dish. Let cool, then add to the bowl along with the tomatoes.
Taste and correct the seasoning, it will definitely need more salt and pepper, but make it your own –– do you want more acid? More dill? More lemon? Chill thoroughly so the flavors can mingle.
Once chilled, plate and garnish with reserved dill, scallions, and the zest of the second lemon. You can also add some edible flowers in case you have some calling from the garden. I love a salad that is beautiful to look at before you even take your first bite.
But now and then, we still want what our mother made…
Sylvia’s Macaroni Tuna Salad
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, minced
- 1 cup peas
- 1 large can tuna fish, drained
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- Paprika to garnish
Cook macaroni, rinse, and drain. Place in a large bowl. Add onion, celery, peas, tuna, and mix up gently with mayonnaise. You can add eggs to the top if you like. Garnish with paprika and salt and pepper.
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