Retro food is a favorite topic of mine. I love showing others how to enjoy the nostalgia of foods past, while helping to reshape the recipes for today – particularly with a focus on making them healthier.
Many of the dishes I remember fondly come from the days when eating red meat every night was the standard, a time when cholesterol and saturated fat were not a top concern. In these decades past, a hunk of iceberg lettuce, two cucumber slices and a cardboard tomato wedge could pass as a gourmet salad. But doused in dressing as sweet as a dessert (and with the calories to match) it was likely only marginally more nutritious than indulging in a sweet treat.
Recently, recipe cards with my mother’s macaroni salad and three-bean salad turned up. Since Mom believed in healthy eating, her recipes were ahead of their time. Her macaroni salad was crammed with generous amounts of red bell pepper, green peas and chopped tomato. Similarly her homemade dressing featured not a traditional mayonnaise-base, but rather a low-calorie, sharp vinaigrette.
Updating Mom’s classics would be easy, I thought, especially as they were already fairly healthy. Simply cutting back the sugar in her vinaigrette, for example, would help dramatically. Other changes would be more drastic.
Because both of Mom’s salads used the same white vinegar dressing, this became the inspiration for combing the two dishes into one. The resulting salad is perfect for casual group occasions and outdoor dining. Since black olives were the most distinctive ingredients, I kept them in the recipe, along with the abundant, colorful vegetables. I added chickpeas to boost the fiber, halved the sugar in the dressing and kicked it up a notch with a touch of grainy mustard. The result: this week’s recipe for Confetti Macaroni and Bean Salad.
Confetti Macaroni and Bean Salad
– Makes 8 servings.
- 3 cups whole-wheat macaroni, cooked al dente
- 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup cucumber, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cut green beans (or frozen and defrosted)
- 1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
- 1/3 coarsely chopped pitted ripe olives (or 2 oz. canned sliced black olives)
- 3 large red radishes
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. coarse grain mustard
- 1 tsp. canola oil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In large mixing bowl, combine pasta, chickpeas, cucumber, green beans, orange pepper and olives. Halve each radish vertically, then horizontally. Cut pieces into 1/4 inch slices and add to salad. Using a fork, toss until beans and vegetables are evenly distributed with pasta.
In small bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar and salt together until sugar and salt dissolve. Add mustard and oil and whisk until blended. Season to taste with pepper. Add to pasta salad. Toss with fork until well combined.
Note: Double the dressing if salad will sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Per serving: 150 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 27 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 260 mg sodium.
“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.