Summer to me is a tall glass of fresh iced tea, slightly sweet and a tomato sandwich. A tomato sandwich made with fresh white bread, Dukes Mayonnaise and a tomato freshly picked off the vine, perfectly ripe and juicy, tasting like the sunshine sweetness from which it was made, with just enough salt and pepper to bring out the tomato-ness of the whole thing. A sandwich you have to lean over and eat fast because the bread starts soaking up the juiciness as soon as you get it made. Thats summer to me. Tomatoes were plentiful on Granny’s farm, so much so that we gave away almost as many as we used. So it is not surprising that if I went to her and said, “Granny I’m hungry.” She would make me a tomato sandwich. And pour me a glass of tea that she had made that morning before the heat set in for the day. A tomato sandwich after a full day of swimming and sunshine in the summer heat is about the best thing on earth.
I’m guessing that is where this macaroni salad came from. I’ve never met anyone else who makes it this way. She probably made it up. Thats the way she cooked, making stuff up along the way. I recall very few recipes that were actually written down in her kitchen.
Macaroni salad, when I was growing up was a simple cold delicious salad, with a mayonnaise base. A meal by itself or a as side with a sandwich. Basically the only dried pasta you could buy in the foothills of North Carolina back then was a simple macaroni and maybe a spaghetti noodle at the big grocery in Forest City. But the tiny grocery store that Granny went to, where my Uncle Arthur was the butcher, only sold Creamette Macaroni. We were of Scots descent with a little German thrown in so I never even had spaghetti at home until we moved to Tennessee. We ate what we grew. We grew a lot of tomatoes. We ate a lot of tomatoes. When I give you this recipe you are going to think “WHAT?” this is so simple, it can’t possibly be good. It is good. This is that first tomato sandwich of the season good. When you go into your own backyard and pick a perfectly ripe tomato warm from the sun, slice it thick, salt and pepper it really good and place it gently on some thick white bread that has been coated with a good mayonnaise, and you take that perfect first bite that is creamy and salty and sweet from the tomato, and the juice slides out of the corner of your mouth and dribblers off your chin good.
Grannys Macaroni Salad
Because it is so simple you HAVE to use really good ingredients.
Here are my suggestions,
Dukes Mayonnaise, the best mayo EVER!(Did you hear about the guy who wanted to be buried in a Dukes Jar? He might be my long lost cousin. And the Dukes people made him his own personal jar with his name on it to be buried in. Seriously this happened! Like not very long ago.)
Perfectly ripe tomatoes 8 to 10 of them, hopefully from your own back yard…but if not, your local farmers market, Bradleys are good, perfect combo of tart and sweet, or almost ANY heirloom variety. Forget grocery store tomatoes they are shipped green and gassed to make them turn red, and any flavor they might have had is lost when they are refrigerated. I won’t even eat a tomato in the wintertime, it just pisses me off. There is a part of Tennessee that grows very a sweet and piquant tomato that I used to buy in Knoxville and those were called Grainger County tomatoes, they were excellent.
Barelli Macaroni (yes I like it better than Creamette, it has little ridges that hold onto the creamy goodness), a 1 pound box, cook it in well salted water, salty like the sea, according to package directions. (yes,taste the water its the only way to tell)
Sea salt and black pepper
While the macaroni is cooking, cut up the perfectly ripe tomatoes in 3/4 inch cubes (leave the skin on it helps to hold their shape) and put them with their juice in the bottom of a large bowl, I just cut them over the bowl, salt and pepper them to taste. Add aprox. 1/2 cup of Dukes and stir to combine. Let them sit there while you are finishing the macaroni.
Now I am not an al dente kind of a girl, but in this recipe do slightly undercook the pasta, just right past al dente. But not mushy. Drain it well. Pour it over the tomato mixture in the bottom of the bowl, it will slightly warm the tomato mixture and the macaroni will absorb the tomato goodness. Let it sit about 1 minute. and stir it up. Add more salt and pepper and a dab of mayo if needed for the creaminess factor, but not too much, you want to taste those beautiful tomatoes. Get you a big bowl of it and a glass of cold iced tea. If you catch yourself in the mirror while you are eating, what you will see is a very happy person who looks like a mule eating briars, grinning like a fool.
Yes this is as good hot as it is cold, my mid-western husband who didn’t even like tomatoes when we got married can eat about a half gallon of this hot or cold. We have actually made a meal of just this, but it is wonderful as a cold side with grilled hamburgers or cold fried chicken on a picnic.
Just simple and good food.
Oh by the way this makes a bunch, like “Church Supper” bunch or relatives from out of town bunch, so if you are just a normal family you might want to cut the recipe in half.