Broccoli happens to be one of those vegetables with a significant number of health benefits. From offsetting Vitamin D deficiencies with its high levels of vitamins A and K, to having high levels of vitamin C, to having some cholesterol-lowering benefits, to even having anti-flammatory benefits, we should all be eating it at least weekly. And considering my recent running injury woes, I should probably be eating it daily!
For the creamiest, smoothest, most flavorful dressing, it should be the night before. The overnight resting allows the sugar and red wine vinegar to become completely infused into the mayonnaise, resulting in a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Lately I have become a big fan of Duke's mayonnaise, a brand well known to cooks to the south. This was the mayonnaise I used to make this salad, however, Hellman's mayonnaise would work as well.
A yield of a generous three to four cups of florets will come from 5 to 6 stems of broccoli.
Yes, I am on a bacon binge this week. There are many versions of Broccoli Salad out there on the web and in cookbooks. The ones that do not contain bacon are ones missing a key ingredient in this salad. Cooked to almost crisp and drained on paper towels, the bacon is cut into lardons (i.e., small strips) before added to the salad. If possible, buy the thicker cut of bacon usually found in the meat section in your grocery store. As another good option use the prepackaged thick cut applewood smoked bacon.
The early versions of this recipe used raisins. This one uses dried cranberries. Some Broccoli Salad recipes use sliced almonds. This one uses roasted, salted sunflower seeds. The combination of dried cranberries and roasted, salted sunflower seeds is nothing short of perfect.
This is not the Broccoli Salad you buy from the deli counter at your grocery store. The ratio of dressing to salad is one where when tossed, the salad is one lightly dressed versus one drowning in dressing. The dressing does not mask each of the flavors in the salad, it compliments them.
While the dressing is tossed into the salad right before serving, the broccoli is still able to retain its' crunch the next day.
Choose your favorite or most beautiful platter when serving this Broccoli Salad. Trust me on this. Yes I know there there is current commercial out there for paper goods that want you to believe the table setting doesn't matter. Remember they are trying to sell you something. And it's more than their products!
Once plated, sprinkle on the remaining reserved sunflower seeds and the lardons/strips cut from one slice of bacon. Like the fall landscape, this is a colorful salad. Served with a roasted chicken or some grilled steaks, it makes for a perfect meal. As an added bonus, it also one having some health and nutritional benefits.
While making this Broccoli Salad, a flurry of memories came back to me. Memories of a house I never thought I would ever want to leave or give up; of a whirlwind antique weekend out east with friends; and, of meals eaten on table settings so beautiful even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would have been elevated to levels reserved only for five star restaurants. And all of this happened because I had saved and reopened a cookbook purchased so many years ago.
Broccoli Salad (inspired by The Happy Times with Home Cooking cookbook, a compilation of recipes contributed by some of the women from Crete, Illinois)
3 - 4 generous cups broccoli florets, from 5-6 stalks of broccoli (Cut large florets into smaller, bite-sized pieces.)
2/3 pound of thick cut bacon, cooked to almost crisp and cut into pieces
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion (from the half of a large red onion or one small red onion)
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
3/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds, divided
1 cup mayonnaise (recommend using either Duke's or Hellman's brands)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1. Combine the mayonnaise, granulated sugar and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Stir until well combined. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 4 hours).
2. Before mixing salad, reserve the lardons from one slice of bacon and 2 Tablespoons of the roasted, salted sunflower seeds.
3. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli florets, bacon lardons, red onion, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.
4. Add dressing to the mixture, and stir until fully incorporated.
5. Transfer salad to a large platter. Top with the reserved bacon and sunflower seeds.
6. Serve immediately.
Note: Refrigerate any leftovers, covering the platter or bowl with plastic wrap.
Ferns and reflections found on a walk in Wilbur Woods (Little Compton, RI)