Pink Elbow Salad


Post by community member:

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A cheerful, healthful salad for any time of year.

The original of this 50s recipe is most likely from Family Circle or Woman’s Day magazine. I loved it then, I love it now. It’s great for getting the veggie-averse to eat beets. Also great for getting whole-grain averse (“Eeww, why is the macaroni brown?”) to eat whole grain elbows. Although . . . ordinary elbow macaroni does yield a significantly more fluorescent shade of pink.

Basic ingredients for Pink Elbow Salad include beets and elbow macaroni. It’s quick. It’s easy.

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Well, maybe not that easy!

Recipe begins with 8 ounces uncooked whole grain elbow macaroni, and a one pint jar pickled beets. Drain beets, reserving liquid. Cut beets into matchsticks. Add 2 tablespoons grated white onion to beets and set aside. Cook macaroni according to package directions. (Or, if you’re an anarchist, cook to your liking.)

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In 1912, James T. Williams redesigned elbow macaroni to have a thinner wall and larger hole. The result, Creamettes® macaroni, was the first quick-cooking pasta.

Pour still-warm macaroni into mixing bowl. Add beet and onion mixture as well as 2 tablespoons beet juice to macaroni. Cool to room temperature. Mix 2-4 tablespoons of remaining beet juice with 1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream or sour cream and mayo until dressing is a pleasing pink, tastes great, and has a inviting consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over salad, mix well and chill. Immediately before serving, garnish with 3 sliced hard cooked eggs. Serves 4-6.

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Presto! Another “before I was born” tool. It has persevered through seventy years of slicing and knocking about kitchen drawers.

Over the years, I’ve made this salad six ways to Sunday; partly because I like it, partly because it’s easy, and partly because its variations are endless.

Monday: Roasted Beet and Elbow Salad:

Lightly coat about a pound of beets with olive oil and place in shallow baking dish and cover. Roast beets at 425 °F for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Cool slightly, rub off the skins, and cut into 1/2 in. dice. Toss with warm, cooked elbow macaroni, adding any juices from the baking dish. Mix 2-3 tablespoons pomegranate juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and mayo until dressing is desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over mac and beets, mix well. Chill. Just before serving, top with a scant handful of chopped fresh tarragon and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

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Beet root, Beta vulgaris, is used commercially as red coloring in foods such as tomato paste, jams and jellies, breakfast cereal, and ice cream.

Tuesday: Matchstick Elbow Salad:

Drain a pint of canned beets, reserving liquid. Cut beets into 1/4 in. matchsticks. Add beets, along with 1/2 cup jicama matchsticks, to warm, cooked elbow macaroni. For dressing, mix 2 tablespoons plain rice vinegar, beet liquid, and mayo until salad dressing is desired color and consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad. Mix well, chill.

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Mild flavored jicama (hee-kah-mah) lends an interesting crunch to all manner of raw and cooked dishes. Fresh jicama stored in a cool dry place will keep for a month or two.

Wednesday: Horseradish Pink Elbows:

Drain 24 oz bottle of borscht, reserve liquid. Mix beets with 1/4 cup diced sweet pickle chips with horseradish. Add beets and pickles to warm cooked elbow macaroni. Mix 3 tablespoons beet juice and 1 teaspoon horseradish-pickle juice with mayo or light sour cream until dressing is desired color, strength, and consistency. Pour over salad, mix well. Chill. (Combine remaining beet juice with other juices for an interesting juice drink.)

Thursday: Lime Pink Elbows:

Boil about 1 pound beets and cut into 1/2 inch dices. Capture and reserve as much beet juice as possible. Mix together beet juice, 1 tablespoon grated onion, and 3/4 cup peeled, seeded, diced cucumber. Add to cooked elbow macaroni. Mix 3-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice with yogurt or mayo until dressing is desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad, mix well. Chill. Garnish lavishly with lime zest curls.

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This tool makes the best garnishing zest. Microplanes produce a finer zest best for incorporation in recipes.

Friday: Beets, Pickles, and Elbows:

Add 2 cups diced, cooked beets to 8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked. Add 2 tblsp chopped sweet pickles or gherkins. Make a salad dressing using beet juice, yogurt, and/or mayo. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over beet and macaroni mixture. Mix well and chill. Garnish with 2 tblsp capers.

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Capers, the pickled buds of the caper bush, Capparis spinosa, add a piquant bite to hot and cold dishes. Be sure to drain the brine before using.

Saturday: Pink Corkscrew Salad:

Cook 1 1/2 pounds beets until tender, reserving any beet juice. Peel and cut into small wedges or dice. Cook whole grain rotini according to package directions. Mix beets and 2 tablespoons beet juice with rotini. Cool to room temperature. Mix remaining beet juice with 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup mayo, yogurt, or sour cream until dressing is desired strength, color, and consistency. Pour over beets and rotini. Mix well, chill. Immediately before serving, garnish with a generous sprinkling of feta cheese and chopped walnuts.

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The Whole Grains Council’s symbol indicates a product made with 100 percent whole grain, offering 16 grams (about half an ounce) of whole grain per serving. Recommendations are for forty-eight grams (1 1/2 ounces) or more of whole grains a day.

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Pink Elbow Salad.

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  1. Julia says:

    Thanks, Bonita. What a wonderful set of ideas for using beets. This is probably a stupid question, but I want to be sure…when you are roasting the beets for the Monday salad, do you leave the skins on to cook them and remove the skins later? If so, do you prick the skins of the beets like you would prick the skins of potatoes before roasting?

  2. rileysmom says:

    Wowzers! You know so many ways with beets, bonita! Pickled beets…..that’s all I ever knew. Must have been Mom’s favorite….

  3. whaledancer says:

    Gee, I’ve frequently heard someone say they’d done something “six ways to Sunday,” but you’re the first one I’ve known to actually DO it. If you ever say you’re so mad you could scream, I’m gonna cover my ears!

    Your photo of the hardboiled eggs and egg slicer is great, food magazine quality. Beautiful colors and composition.

    Thank you for the recipe(s). Since we like both beets and whole-wheat mac, this should be a winner at our house.

  4. bonita says:

    Julia: Generally I leave the skins on beets when roasting them. You can easily rub off the peels with a paper towel once the beets are roasted. It’s much easier than peeling them before hand. I usually leave about an inch or two of top in place to use as a handle to hold the hot beets while wiping off the skin. Cuts down on beet-stained hands. (Actually, I keep some latex gloves in the kitchen for when I’m peeling and cutting beets and when I have to cut lots of peppers.) Doesn’t seem to be a reason to prick the skins.

    riley’smom: Yep, pickled and harvard sweet and sour. I think that at the time preparing fresh beets was intimidating to homemakers and the commercially canned tasted quite tinny.

    whaledancer: Thanks for the comments. As you might guess, some variations happen because one has a taste for something, but not quite the exact ingredients. I’m one of those who stares into the open fridge waiting for inspiration and some times it comes!

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