Sometimes I end up at the market without having thought of eating before I get there.
It’s been a busy morning, time has gotten away from me, and editing photos of food, or reading and writing about food hasn’t been a great substitute for actually remembering to eat. Ending up at the market hungry is not a good thing for my wallet or my posterior, so I fend off the cravings until I find myself looking at the salads in the deli case trying to decide which of them is least toxic. They seem fine based on the cursory primping someone has taken time to do, with veggies artfully arranged, and a serving spoon carefully inserted at a jaunty angle. I’ve barely scanned the case before a helpful person asks whether I’d like to taste something.
I wave aside the offer of a taste and instead, request a small cup full of broccoli salad. It’s fairly green, shows evidence of other veggies in the mix — maybe some seeds as well — and doesn’t appear to be drowning in mayo which is certain death for any salad I’m considering.
The clerk seems surprised by my lack of interest in a sample tasting, but fills the small container with a scoop of the chopped salad I pointed to, and sends me on my way with a fork and a napkin. As soon as the groceries are in the car, I pop the lid and take a bite, not expecting the sweetness. It’s not too sweet, but I’m already pushing away thoughts of Miracle Whip, wondering if it’s an ingredient — just about the only thing worse than mayo overkill in a salad. As I chew, I notice other flavors like chopped dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. Minced red onion. Definitely sweetness coming from whatever the light dressing was, but without the greasiness that I think mayo can leave in a salad.
It was good. Still a bit sweet for me, but pleasant enough to help save me from expiring from hunger in the market parking lot so I could get home and do some searching about broccoli salad.
Of course, it’s all over the Internet.
It’s a perfect salad for now, easy to make, and doesn’t have to be unhealthy if you use less sweetener, cut way back on the mayo, and think about getting the right balance of flavors and textures in every bite.
It’s even better when you make it ahead.
But you probably already knew that, right?
2-3 broccoli crowns, raw, chopped, including the stems
2 slices thick bacon, cooked, chopped
1/4 c. red onion, diced
1/4 c. red pepper, diced
2 T roasted, salted sunflower seeds
1/4 c. dried cranberries
2 T mayo
drizzle of honey
squirt of lemon
salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning as desired.
- Pour over the salad ingredients and toss lightly.
- Once I’d begun to look for broccoli salad recipes, I noticed that many contained far more mayo than was necessary — sometimes as much as 1-1/2 cups! Have a bit o’ salad with that mayo, folks? At some point, doesn’t that negate the value of the vegetables? The quantity of sugar in the recipes also seems excessive with as much as 1/3 cup. Even more interesting was the quantity of broccoli added in these recipes — often quite a bit less. I even found a version that included 10 slices of bacon. Really? Goodness. Look at me preaching.
- So how large is a “crown” of broccoli? A good six inches in diameter for the purposes of this recipe.
- I saw a recipe for “Summer-Salad Mayonnaise” in the May 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living and thought I’d make half a batch to try in a variety of recipes. It contains minced cornichons and peppers, and has a brighter flavor than jarred mayo. I made mine with extra virgin olive oil instead of the safflower oil, however, and that will change the flavor especially considering the quality of olive oil you choose.
- My husband and I split most of this batch for dinner one night and we loved it. I had to bribe him to consider it, because he won’t eat mayo, but he admitted he enjoyed this.
- In some recipes I read, I noticed that some don’t like raw broccoli. I don’t mind it, but if you’re one who needs it to be cooked a bit, then consider a quick steam instead of a parboil, then rinse or dunk it in very cold water. This will stop the cooking, cool it down for the salad, and most importantly, keep all the vitamins in the broccoli instead of in the water that goes down the drain after you’re done with it.
- If you’re not a dried cranberry lover, then try raisins, or chopped dried apricots or cherries. I think the important thing is to get the softer texture and the tang from any of these dried fruits. It’s a nice contrast to the broccoli.
- If you’re not a dried fruit lover, then chop some apples and add those instead.
- Of course you can leave the bacon out, but it’s so very, very good. Choose lean bacon, make it crispy, and drain it well.
- The sunflower seeds are wonderful in this, but pecans would be great, slivered almonds, or even walnuts. Again, the contrast to the other flavors is very nice.
More Broccoli Salad Recipes
- Sesame Broccoli Salad Recipe from Eating Out Loud
- Broccoli Salad from Cooking with Michele
- Vegan Broccoli Salad with Spicy Sesame Peanut Dressing from The Perfect Pantry
- Peter’s Broccoli Salad from Stacy Snacks