August 31, 2009

Zippy Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Pinenuts and Cranberries

4 broccoli crowns
3 slices (cooked) bacon, crumbled
1 bunch green onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced basil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon agave nectar

Quickly blanch the broccoli by plunging it into boiling water for one minute. Rinse off under cool water. Allow to cool. Thoroughly drain (a salad spinner works nicely) then chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with salad ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing. Drizzle over the salad, toss to coat and evenly distribute.

My thoughts:
My family never made broccoli salad when I was growing but from what I've encountered at picnics and parties since, we were in the minority. I think I have had at least 10 variations of the salad. They all seem to have some things in common: something crunchy, something sweet and some sort of onion. When I went to make my own version, I didn't see any reason to leave any of that out. Raisins seem the most popular sweet ingredient but since I find them abhorrent and bug-like I went with sweet-tart dried cranberries. The need for bacon was clear and for crunch I added some toasty pinenuts. Often the dressing in broccoli salad is rather sweet which isn't terribly appealing to me so I made basil vinaigrette with just a drop of agave nectar for sweetness. Green onions and shallot provide the onion flavor without the sometimes harsh flavor of raw onion.

Quick note: While blanching the broccoli seems like an unnecessary step; it brightens the color of the broccoli and takes some of the raw edge off which really adds something to the salad.