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Recipe: A macaroni salad for modern times

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                It may not be a salad in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t stop macaroni salad from being a bright, acidic and herbaceous partner to virtually anything off the grill.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    It may not be a salad in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t stop macaroni salad from being a bright, acidic and herbaceous partner to virtually anything off the grill.

It may not be a salad in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t stop macaroni salad from being a bright, acidic and herbaceous partner to virtually anything off the grill. Many would argue that no cookout is complete without it.

Yes, it’s unapologetically retro, a loyal supporting player, but its salty and sweet, tangy and textural appeal is timeless.

Macaroni salad’s staying power lies in convenience: Its steps are as easy as its ingredient list is approachable, relying on pantry staples and lending itself to adaptation. Perfectly portable, it can be prepared in advance — and even benefits from some time sitting — and its slightly subtle flavor makes it a match for all those bold, summery flavors.

It’s the taste of picnic season, prepared in minutes from the comfort of your kitchen. (And if you don’t have a cookout to go to, it’s still something simple you can make for yourself.)

This version punches up macaroni salad’s essence for a more modern take: Macaroni and mayonnaise are mandatory, but replacing half the mayonnaise with buttermilk gives the salad a lighter, glossier base. A pinch of sugar simply heightens the tanginess, without veering into sweeter territory.

Chopped celery and pickles are joined by mustard and capers — condiments that kick — and a bright dose of lemon zest.

At a time when fresh herbs feel especially luxurious, mayonnaise and macaroni — the culinary equivalent of a reliable pair of Chuck Taylors — continue to delight. Fistfuls of dill and parsley bring macaroni salad into the 21st century, where it still feels zippy and even a little exhilarating.

MACARONI SALAD WITH LEMON AND HERBS

  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • >> Dressing:
  • 2/3 cup minced bread-and-butter pickles
  • 2 large stalks celery, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (see note)
  • 1/3 cup minced Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup drained jarred capers, chopped, plus 3 tablespoons caper brine
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 4 teaspoons juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high. Cook macaroni in boiling water until al dente, about 6 minutes; drain; let cool a few minutes.

Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

Toss macaroni with dressing, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate until chilled. Top with extra scallions, parsley and dill to garnish just before serving. Makes 10 cups.

>> NOTE: In lieu of buttermilk use 1/4 cup whole milk and increase mayonnaise to 3/4 cup

Nutritional information unavailable.

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