Ah, broccoli. Much maligned broccoli. Why does everyone hate you so? Broccoli seems to be the quintessential vegetable that gets scapegoated in everyone’s “I hate vegetables” rant. I am going to presume that this is because of the stinky nature of broccoli and our tendency to overcook it. Nothing pains me more than to see floppy spears of broccoli plated up, especially when they have been cooked to the point that they are no longer green but yellow. Yes, that’s right. I have seen yellow broccoli served. In a restaurant!
I have always loved broccoli, raw or cooked (though for some reason I never cared for my mom’s broccoli casserole until I was an adult. I can’t explain.). Raw broccoli, of course, is typically served up with copious amounts of ranch dressing….cooked broccoli cloaked in a swath of cheese sauce…because vegetables are icky and their flavors must be masked. Of course that is sarcasm, but certain ranch dressing manufacturers and processed “cheese” sauce purveyors would have us believe just that.
I had never tasted or even heard of broccoli salad until I was an adult. It is not something that I remember at the church potlucks or in the box lunches of my youth. I discovered it in a gardening book and started making it constantly. It was only then that I noticed it showing up on tables that I was eating from, usually including some sort of dried fruit (more on that in a minute) and sunflower seeds. Turns out that it’s a traditional Southern thing, with a recipe in every fundraiser cookbook.
Now, as much as I love broccoli, raw broccoli can be a bit unwieldy to eat. Chewing with whole florets in your mouth can be a challenge. Traditional broccoli slaw is something that you don’t even want to get me started on…I find those bags of thick shreds of broccoli combined with thick shreds of carrot to be insipid and dull. However, if you turn your fresh broccoli into slaw by slicing it up finely, you’ll find it not only tasty but easier to shovel into your mouth with a fork (not that I shovel…ahem). Traditional recipes include golden raisins but you guys, I have a confession: I. HATE. RAISINS. I spent many years in denial of this fact and I’m not going to live the lie anymore. So we use cranberries. Toasted sunflower seeds and almonds give it crunch, and bacon gives it, well, bacon, and that needs no explanation. I’ve discovered that if I finely chop raw onions and give them a quick pickle in some vinegar, I can eat them! The vinegar in the onions combines with mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, and a little sugar to make a dressing that’s lightened up from the traditional dressing, which includes just mayo, vinegar (plain old white vinegar traditionally), and sugar.
This is a quick and simple side, potluck dish, or, if you’re like me, something that you will eat straight from the bowl standing at the counter until you are so stuffed full of broccoli that you don’t even want to eat anything else.
- 1/4 red onion, finely minced (I used 1/4 of a gigantic onion, because I cannot EVER find small red onions at the grocery store)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1lb broccoli
- 4 Slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and chopped
- 1/2 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds, lightly toasted (oh, you could use roasted & salted seeds and I am sure that they would be JUST fine. In fact, they'd probably be better than fine. I just like to save mine for scarfing.)
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
- salt and pepper
|Pickle the onions: Place the onions in a small bowl (I mince mine up as finely as I can by continuously running my knife through them). Pour the vinegar over and give them a stir. Refrigerate for at least an hour.|
|Prep the broccoli: slice off the ugly brown ends and the leaves and discard. Cut the florets off of the stem. Cut the stems into planks lengthwise then stack the planks and cut crosswise into matchsticks. Cut the florets crosswise into 3 or 4 thin slices each. Place into a large mixing bowl.|
|Make the dressing: whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, and sugar.|
|Assemble the salad: put the bacon, sunflower seeds, almonds, cranberries, and pickled onions (along with all the vinegar in the bowl) into the bowl with the broccoli. Pour the dressing over. Stir to combine thoroughly. Salt and pepper, stir, taste, adjust seasonings, and refrigerate until ready to serve.|