Tuna-macaroni salad is a summer picnic favorite for all generations. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at iwrite33@comcast.net or 504-0545.

I recently spent a lovely summer day with friends in Georgetown at a cottage straight out of an Elisabeth Ogilvie novel. Overlooking a quintessential Maine view of lobster boats, kayaks and fish shacks, we lazed about in lawn chairs positioned in the shade, went for a saunter along the shoreline and dined on an assortment of refreshing summer salads, followed by fresh berries and pie with whipped cream.

It was a day for the books. The weather was fine, the company was mellow and we were all feeling grateful and content.

These gatherings happen every so often and we always bring food to share, never telling one another what we’re toting in our coolers and picnic baskets. It’s always a surprise, yet somehow always falls into place.

I was very happy with the tuna-macaroni salad I had chosen to bring. Spirit had guided me to prepare an old-fashioned, homey dish, and this little cottage by the sea was the perfect place to share it. It’s a family favorite that never disappoints.

I’m sure you have your special way to make it – perhaps you substitute some of the mayo for sour cream or add diced cucumber, bell peppers, pickles or hard-boiled eggs. As I always say, you do you. This is even better made the day ahead, so there’s plenty of time for the flavors to become friendly with one another.

I’ve made this salad for so many years in so many different versions. I’ve even substituted salmon or shrimp for the tuna or go all out and use fresh lobster or crab meat – we call that macaroni salad deluxe.


All the salads were delicious, but I made room for seconds when it came to the Asian-inspired sweet and sour cabbage salad with the crunchy bits.

My advice for this dish is to go ahead and make the dressing and do your chopping ahead of time if you want to, then leave combining the salad ingredients to right before serving so nothing gets soggy.

Shredded chicken can be added if you want to make an entree out of it. Either way, it’s a crispy, crunchy side kick to the creamy mac salad. Now go get busy and make up a batch of each.

Tuna-macaroni salad

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) small macaroni or small shells

2 (5-ounce) cans solid albacore tuna, packed in water

1/2 cup onion, diced


1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup fresh or frozen, thawed peas

1 to 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds


3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Boil the pasta in well-salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse it well with cold water. Allow it to cool completely in a colander, then place it in a large bowl. (This keeps the mayonnaise from being absorbed and disappearing when added.)

Add all other ingredients, tasting and seasoning as you go. Chill for at least two hours.

Yield: 6 servings

Asian-inspired cabbage salad

1 head napa cabbage (approximately 8-10 cups), shredded


1 small bunch scallions, chopped

1/2 cup crunchy Chow Mein noodles

1 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup sesame seeds

2 (10-ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained, or 1-2 cups fresh mandarin oranges

Saute almonds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until golden for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Then saute sesame seeds over medium heat until golden for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a separate bowl to cool.


Just before serving, mix cabbage with the oranges and scallions and toss to combine. Add most of the toasted almonds, sesame seeds and Chow Mein noodles, reserving a small portion of each for the topping. Add dressing to taste and toss. Top with additional almonds, sesame seeds and noodles.

Yield: 4 servings


1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

3 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

Mix sugar, oil, vinegar and tamari in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute and be sure sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Dressing will separate as it cools and thickens, so stir vigorously before adding it to the salad.

Yield: 3/4 cup

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