Macaroni Salad with Bacon, Peas, and Creamy Dijon Dressing

Bring on the great American holiday weekend!  I want fireworks — loud ones!  And parades — long ones!  And flags flying and sun shining  and the delicious smell fabulous food cooking on a charcoal fire.  The weather’s finally going to be gorgeous, the food’s gonna be tasty and there’s BIG fun ahead, so I WANT IT ALL and I WANT IT NOW!!  I’m channeling Veruca Salt this afternoon, and we all know what happened to her.

So before squirrels mob me and I’m hauled away in a refuse bin (movie scene, anyone?), let’s discuss our 4th of July menu.  Since the DamFam cookout will involve lots of people and tons of kids, I plan on keeping things simple — after all, the hostess wants to have her fun too.  I’ll serve my favorite burgers, beer-soaked brats, hot dogs, and all the trimmings.  I’ll put out a giant platter of juicy watermelon wedges, a big bowl of my favorite roasted potatoes, and this lighter version of macaroni salad.

I made this for the very first time today.  I absolutely love the dressing;  it’s a tangy dijon vinaigrette with a sprinkle of lemon zest – fresh tasting with a little bit of a zip.  The crispy bacon crumbles add just the right amount of richness, and you’ll never mind that the dressing is made from reduced fat ingredients.  As always, when I try a new recipe I follow the instructions pretty closely – so with that said, I would definitely cut the red onion next time — maybe down to a third of a cup instead of two thirds.  Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Except, maybe to sneak in a little more bacon.

Have a great week!

MAKES 8 – 1 cup servings

1/2 c. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Philadelphia Brand is on sale this week, 6/29/11 to 7/5/11)
1/4 c. chopped shallots
1/4 c. reduced fat mayonnaise
2 T. reduced fat sour cream (Breakstone and Golden Guernsey are on sale)
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. white wine vinegar
1/2 t. kosher salt
3/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

8 oz. elbow macaroni (Barilla Pastas are on sale)
2/3 c. frozen green peas (Westpac Frozen Vegetables are on sale)
2/3 c. finely chopped red bell pepper
2/3 c. finely chopped red onion
1/2 c. sliced scallions (scallions are on sale)
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley
1/2 t. fresh lemon zest
3 sliced bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and crumbled (Sendik’s Applewood Bacon is on sale)

Place all dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until thick and smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Set aside while you make the salad.

Cook macaroni according to directions on package, omitting salt and fat.  Add frozen peas to boiling pasta during the last three minutes of cooking; drain pasta and peas, rinse with cold water, and drain again.  Place pasta and peas in a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the salad ingredients (except for bacon crumbles); toss to combine.  Add half of the dressing; toss to coat.  Cover salad and chill until serving time.  When ready to serve, add remaining dressing, toss well to combine.  Top salad with bacon crumbles and serve immediately.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | June 28th, 2011