Broccoli salads were not part of my cooking repertoire until recently. I don’t know why I never made them before. Maybe it is because of the mushy broccoli salads on buffet tables, I have seen too many of those. Once I started making them though I cannot seem to stop. Broccoli can make a beautiful crunchy salad that is full of flavour and family and friends seem to enjoy it. There are never any leftovers.
The key to this salad is to chop the broccoli into small bite size pieces. It doesn’t work as well with large broccoli florets. Sometimes I make this all Verde (green), sometime I add jewel tones of cherry tomatoes, red cabbage, red or yellow pepper, whatever I have in the fridge. You can make this completely raw but I prefer to briefly steam the broccoli pieces over boiling water, just to soften them a little, not much. Steaming the broccoli (or dropping it into boiling water) also intensifies the colour and you end up with a vibrant green salad that is pleasant to the eye as well as the palate. If you add the salad greens use something crispy like romaine lettuce, chopped with a knife rather than torn in pieces, the texture of the salad is better this way. Adding lettuce can also add volume if you are cooking for a crowd. An avocado adds creaminess, a couple of small cucumbers add flavour and crunch, toasted pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts add texture and a nutty element. You can add chick peas if you want, keep it simple or embellish, depending on the circumstances. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette dressing suggested below but you have to make sure it has enough acidity, or “kick”. If it doesn’t, add a squeeze of lemon before serving, or serve with a lemon wedge.
1 small head broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
1 small head romaine, inner crispy leaves only (sometime I use it, sometimes I don’t)
A handful fresh green beans
2 small cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and sliced crosswise
1-2 avocados, halves and cubed and drizzled with juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 cup cooked chick peas (can use canned)
Chop the broccoli into very small bite size florets. You can use the tender part of the stem if you are inclined, peel a little of the tougher end of the stem and chop it as well.
Trim the green beans and cut into bite size pieces.
Have a bowl with ice water ready. Fill a pot with a steamer basket with water up to the bottom of the basket and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli pieces and cover. Let boil for a couple of minutes or less, then remove from the steamer and drop into the ice water to stop the cooking and set the green colour. Drain well and place in a salad bowl.
Repeat the same with the green beans: steam the green beans in the same pot you cooked the broccoli in and steam until crisp-tender. The beans should be slightly undercooked to retain a crunch. Drain and add to the ice water to stop the cooking and set the colour. Drain well and add to the broccoli.
Rinse and dry the lettuce if using, then stack the leaves on top of each other and slice with a knife into 1/2 inch ribbons. Add to the cooled broccoli.
Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2 slices. Add to the salad bowl.
Cut the avocados in half, scoop out the flesh and cut into cubes. I usually add the avocado at the last minute so it doesn’t become mushy from tossing the salad.
Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts over the salad.
Add any (or none) of the additional suggested vegetables.
Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and squeeze a little lemon over top. You will have some dressing left over that you can use on another green salad.
Season with salt and toss the salad gently.
1 shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from 1/2 small lemon
Combine shallot, garlic, mustard and salt in a small bowl.
Add vinegar and mix with a fork.
Let stand for 10 minutes, then whisk in the olive oil.
Add as much lemon juice as you need to yield a lemony vinaigrette, depending on the oil and vinegar you used.
Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.