Meatless Monday: New Macaroni Salad

Make a mayo-free macaroni salad with a dressing made with Greek yogurt and feta cheese.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

I'm totally creeped out by mayonnaise, from its greasy feel and yellowish hue to its gelatinous texture. Plus even if a mayo-laden salad comes straight from the fridge, I'm automatically scared that it's been sitting out for too long. I know I'm not alone in this; mayo is polarizing -- you either love it or hate it. I fall into the latter category, with one exception: I'm a full-time mayo-hater but I love deviled eggs. (Maybe because the mayo gets masked by the yolks? Who knows.)

Anyway, mayonnaise is gross; we covered that. But it's also totally unnecessary in summer salads. Greek yogurt is cool and creamy without being greasy, plus it has a tangier (I think better) flavor than mayo, so it makes a good substitute for mayonnaise in potato or macaroni salads. It is still just as perishable as mayo, so don't go thinking you can leave it out in the sun forever.

Swapping yogurt for mayo in salads isn't just for dieters, though the idea does have its roots in healthier fare. If you want a really rich dressing, use full-fat or 2% Greek yogurt. And if you want to keep the calories and fat down, use fat-free Greek yogurt; it's just as thick as full-fat but without, you know, the fat.

The feta in this recipe plays up the tanginess of the yogurt and the dill and lemon juice give it even more punch. Cherry tomatoes are in season now so you can find them in a bunch of different colors and shapes at the farmers' market. Pick out a nice assortment for a really colorful salad.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings (12 cups)
Kosher salt
1 pound dried macaroni
1 1/2 cups 2-percent Greek yogurt
1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 4 ounces)
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup assorted cherry or pear tomatoes (about 8 ounces), halved or quartered if large

12 small radishes, cut into small wedges (about 1 cup)

2 medium carrots, shredded on the largest hole of a box grater (about 1/2 cup)

2 scallions, whites and green parts, sliced
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup picked dill, roughly chopped

Bring a large, generously-salted pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to package instructions. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until the macaroni is completely cooled. Shake the colander well to get rid of excess water. Transfer the macaroni to a large bowl.

While the macaroni is cooking, make the dressing. Combine the yogurt, feta, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, pepper and garlic in a food processor. Blend until well mixed. Scrape the dressing into the bowl with the macaroni. Add the tomatoes, radishes, carrots, scallions, cucumber and dill to the bowl and toss well. Check for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if desired.

More Meatless and Mayo-Free Summer Salads
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