Surely you have your favorite combination of ingredients for Broccoli Salad. Usually it is raw florets, dried cranberries or raisins, red onion, cheddar cheese, bacon, and almonds tossed with mayo. Let's do something different, add more nutrition, cut the calories, use two kinds of brassica, and add leftover holiday turkey. Toss all with vegan mayo.
Have you tried Romanesco in this salad? Also known as Romanesco Broccoli, Roman Cauliflower, Broccolo Romanesco, this bright green brassica is fascinating in many respects. I bet you still remember the first time you saw it. I do, a dramatic presence in Bologna's steadfast outdoor marketplace. Where did it come from – water or air? Reminiscent of a structured coral reef or a crater chunk from outer space, I imagined a lime-green horned lizard climbing aboard, yawning, then napping on its new home. In those days, only the curious or the chefs bought it. Tasting milder than its classic cousin, its great potential anchored it in the culinary scene for many preparations.
Techniques. Even a simple salad improves with forethought.
* Open bagged pre-cut florets and invert them into a bowl? No. Look closely at the expiration date. Choose the freshest possible, because once cut, vegetables drop in nutrition and vitamin levels within 5 to 6 days of being cut. Often those florets are drying out, which means they lack flavor and crisp texture, and they absorb more dressing increasing calories. At least, rinse them well before using, ridding them of bacteria. Fresh is best.
* Fresh broccoli heads with firm stalks or bagged pre-cut: Rinse. Soak them in cool water for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain well, then make the salad. I promise this simple technique greatly enhances broccoli salad.
* Raw broccoli, not your favorite? Briefly steam. In a covered pot, bring water to a rolling boil. When the pot is filled with steam, place the florets in a colander inside. Steam for 1 minute. Remove. Immediately rinse under cold water to stop cooking and turn broccoli a gorgeous bright green. It remains crisp, but without rawness, which is very appealing and easier to digest.
* Bacon. Almost everyone loves bacon hot and crisp, just out of the pan. But cold with spongy fat? Covered with creamy dressing? Why not try lightly-smoked pork salumi? Thinly-sliced Italian speck or German Black Forest shinken is usually available in grocery stores. Much lower in fat than bacon, both possess yummy bacon-y taste and aroma. Or substitute quality smoked ham.
* For 6 ounces (170 g) florets, purchase 8 to 10 ounces (227 to 283 g) fresh broccoli heads. Use about 1/4 head romanesco. Make this salad with all classic broccoli, all romanesco, or a mix.
* The grapes add a burst of fresh juice. The dates are "meaty" in character. Leftover holiday turkey blends in flawlessly. The dressing is delightfully light with a sweet-tart taste because of the yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and honey with a sparkle of freshly grated lemon zest.
4 servings. Makes about 6 cups (1.4 liters volume) salad.
2 cups raw broccoli florets (6 ounces or 170 g)
2 cups raw romanesco florets (6 ounces or 170 g)
1 to 2 cups chopped roast turkey or chicken (boneless, skinless, 5 to 10 ounces or 142 to 285 g)
1 cup grapes, split (4 ounces or 113 g)
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates (8 medium dates: 3 ounces or 85 g)
1 thin slice of red onion (2 tablespoons diced or 30 ml volume) )
3 thin slices of Italian speck, German shinken, or smoked ham, chopped
OR 3 slices bacon, center-cut low sodium or turkey bacon
2 tablespoons (30 ml) mild oil for frying speck or shinken
Salad Dressing: Adjust according to your preference
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 118 ml) vegan mayonnaise
3 tablespoons (44 ml) Greek-style thick plain yogurt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) honey or agave syrup
Freshly grated lemon zest to taste
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
Shelled sunflower seeds to taste
Shelled pumpkin seeds to taste
Rehydrate or steam the broccoli and romanesco. Meanwhile, fry chopped speck or shinken in oil or fry the bacon just until crisped, then crumble. Drain on absorbent towels. Make the salad dressing.
Put the salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Pour the salad dressing over and toss. Cover well. This salad gets better and better as flavors mingle, so chill for an hour before serving or even up to 2 days (if you don't eat it before). Sprinkle with sunflower and pumpkin seeds just before serving so they remain crunchy. Enjoy every bite. It's addictively good.