“Crisp-tender broccoli salad that is better than the ones you’ll find on any salad bar.”
After some informal research at local grocery store salad bars, I began to see a trend. Next to the fresh vegetables and other salad toppings, there were a collection of specialty salads. The specialty salads varied from store to store, but the common denominator always seemed to be the creamy, broccoli concoction lovingly labeled “broccoli salad.” A sampling left me feeling underwhelmed. How could something so popular at salad bars be so boring and unhealthy? Inspired by this culinary dilemma, I decided to create my own version, allowing the broccoli to be the star while adding some accessories to accentuate and not distract.
The key I found to a good broccoli salad was the broccoli preparation. Some recipes call for raw broccoli, but I found I prefer it cooked. I like to blanch and shock the broccoli which not only keeps the broccoli bright and beautiful, but also makes it feel less like “roughage” and more like well, broccoli. What is blanching and shocking? It’s a simple culinary technique where you submerge food in boiling water for a brief amount of time then transfer it immediately to an ice bath or rinse it under cold water. This short cooking time helps soften the broccoli up a bit and the shocking in cold water prevents the broccoli from over-cooking, which in turn, helps retain nutrients.
To add some nutritional boost, I also added chopped, fresh tomatoes and a healthy dose of toasted almonds. The dressing is a simple combination of low-fat Greek yogurt and low-fat mayonnaise blended with red wine vinegar and a touch of honey. It’s light enough that it doesn’t mask the other salad ingredients. It’s a delightful dish to bring to picnics and it’s satisfying enough to be served as a main course. Next time you’re at the grocery store, skip the salad bar broccoli salad and make this recipe instead!
Food Safety Tip: This salad is great to bring to outdoor get-togethers, but keep food safety in mind. Don’t leave it out, uncovered in the hot sun. Instead, fill a bowl (larger than the bowl the salad is being served in) halfway with ice, then place the salad bowl inside that bowl, so it’s resting on the ice. This will help keep the salad cold while it’s sitting out. Cover it with plastic wrap to prevent any bugs or other things from getting in there. And remember, just because it’s sitting on ice, it’s not free from the two hour rule. Toss it or put it away after two hours, only one hour if it’s over 90°F.
Broccoli Salad with Almonds and Creamy Dijon Dressing
- 5 cups broccoli florets, about 10 1/2 ounces, washed
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup low-fat or olive oil-based mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion, washed
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, washed, sliced in half, quartered if large
- 1/2 cup toasted, slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, carefully drop the broccoli into the pot. Stir and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and drain over the sink using a colander.
- Rinse the broccoli in cold water to stop the cooking process and leave in the colander to drain.
- While broccoli is draining, prepare the dressing. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the mustard, yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Add the broccoli and onions to the bowl and toss to coat.
- Cover the salad and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Just before serving stir in the tomatoes, almonds and cheese.