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Light the Fire

Two favorite summer recipes

(Sheryl Julian/Globe Staff)
By Sheryl Julian
Globe Staff / May 20, 2009

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Everyone is always looking for great versions of favorite dishes. That's why when you stumble on a recipe for macaroni salad, you don't dismiss it as just another macaroni salad. You may have found the definitive recipe. When chef Peter Irving sent me his grandmother's recipe for macaroni salad and I made it recently, I realized that this is what can happen when a rather ordinary dish has perfect proportions.

"Grandma Sis" made macaroni salad for outdoor parties when Irving was a kid. "We'd get it at barbecues every year," he says.

Irving, co-owner with Natasha Kanieff of St. Alphonzo's Kitchen, a tiny spot in South Boston, makes it for the restaurant now. The pasta is dressed with a small amount of mayonnaise, which disappears into the elbows; then it's garnished with chopped cocktail olives, celery, red onion, and bell pepper.

Irving also has an unusual slaw, a beautiful bowl of violet shreds. He adapted a recipe from Southern cookbook author Fannie Flagg. Irving begins with red cabbage and dresses the slaw with a lively mixture of ketchup, a little sugar, rice vinegar, lemon juice, paprika, and olive oil, which turns coral when blended. The color and the sweet-tart flavors make it a stand-out.