For me, lemons go with the bright yellow summertime the way that pumpkins go with the fiery-orange fall. The tangy taste of a fresh lemon reminds me of a clean, crisp breeze, or perhaps the way one of the rays of the sun would taste if it stretched itself thin enough that it could reach me and ever so gently touch my tongue. The fresh flavor of lemon informs so very many things that we put into our mouths in this golden season of warmth; it informs everything from the cold beverages that we thirstily gulp down such an icy, cherry-lemonade or a tart, lemon slush, to the perfectly chilled desserts we allow to linger extra long on our tongues, such as lemon meringue pie or frozen lemon-curd bars. But the wonderful use of lemon doesn’t end with perfectly sweet treats or tall, frosty drinks; not at all. The glorious summer lemon can leave its zingy essence, its wonderful presence, on some of our favorite, savory summertime side dishes, putting a simple, tangy little twist on all things of a summer-y nature.
The addition of lemon in food is a welcome addition in my book. I usually squeeze a touch over just about everything; as everything, in my opinion, tastes a little more “alert” and awake with a gentle and zippy kiss of lemon on it. With outdoor grilling and BBQ-ing in full gear in the summer months, side items such as green salads and classic macaroni pasta salads become much-reached-for staples, and those can so colorfully benefit from a hint of lemon to bring out their best. Cool and creamy macaroni pasta salads are a favorite for many of us to add to the festive spread at a lively gathering; and adding the brightness from some lemon zest and fresh lemon juice can perfectly “lighten up” the flavors a bit. Lemon adds that little twist of uniqueness to a rich and creamy dressing; and along with fresh thyme, smoky and salty pancetta and bright, emerald-green peas, a common macaroni pasta salad gets a bit of gourmet upgrade, making it a refreshing and elegant BBQ buddy to add as a classic accompaniment to the classic summertime gathering.
If the summertime had a flavor that I could actually taste, I have a small hunch that the flavor would be of lemons. Those juicy, colorful and tangy little glowing orbs that offer a sharpness and zing to all they come in contact with make the taste of this season come alive with vibrancy. A cool and creamy macaroni salad kissed with a hint of fresh lemon and herbs will liven up your get-together and wake up everybody’s taste buds, making everyone glad that it’s summertime, indeed. So go ahead and raise your ice-cold glass of cherry lemonade, and take a nice, big bite of a sweet ‘n tart lemon bar; but don’t forget to raise your fork filled with creamy Summer Macaroni Salad, and take a lemon-y bite out of this perfectly “yellow” and sunny season.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Summer Macaroni Salad with Crispy Pancetta and Petite Peas in a Bright & Creamy Lemon-Thyme Dressing
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(Serves about 6)
12 oz salad-size macaroni pasta, cooked according to package instructions and cooled
1cup frozen petite peas, thawed
4 oz diced and crisped pancetta
• Creamy, Lemon-Thyme Dressing (recipe below)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
-Add the cooked and cooled macaroni to a large bowl, and add in the thawed petite peas and the diced, crisped pancetta; if serving immediately, toss with the Creamy, Lemon-Thyme Dressing, and garnish with the thyme leaves; if making ahead, prepare all components and keep them separate, then toss the dressing with the pasta/peas/pancetta when ready to serve, to keep the pasta salad moist and fresh; keep cold.
Creamy, Lemon-Thyme Dressing ingredients:
¾ cup mayo
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons lemon zest
1tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
-Add all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, and process the mixture until thick and completely creamy; store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the salad, at which point you can toss the dressing with the pasta.