Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A very merry broccoli salad

Years ago, I attended an intimate holiday dinner in Rego Park, Queens for which I was forced to show up alone and not knowing a single person there, including the host. The person who had invited me—the one who did know the host and the other guests—was very late, and though I had spent a good amount of time trying to amuse myself on Queens Blvd while waiting for him, as it became fully dark outside and the stores began closing, I realized that I had to start walking over to the host's apartment before it got too late.

So I found the apartment, knocked on the door, introduced myself, and then after hanging up my coat and handing over the bottle of wine I had come with, undertook the only other non-awkward action available to me, which was to eat. Luckily, it was a casual serve-yourself instead of a sit-down dinner, so I was able to mingle well enough until my companion finally made his appearance…two hours later.
All was not lost, however. Among the many dishes laid out on the counter that night was a salad of raw broccoli paired with cashews, red onion, and dried cranberries. In the bowl the salad looked like Christmas, with its cheery little green trees dotted with red fruit. Until then I had never eaten broccoli in this manner before, and I was amazed at how the crucifer had given up its squeaky raw crunch in the dressing, gently relaxing the same way cabbage does when turned into coleslaw. The roasted cashews and chopped red onion added savory heft to the sweet cranberries and snappy broccoli, and with one bite, I was sold.

By taste, I recreated the salad a few weeks later for my family, and they were similarly enamored. This is an easy recipe that I unfortunately don't have exact measurements for, but here's a basic overview: chop about one and a half heads of broccoli into teeny florets (I small-dice the peeled stems, too); chop half a red onion fine; dollop on your choice of mayonnaise; add a few splashes of lemon juice; add a teaspoon or so of sugar (depending on your taste); and then mix and stow in the fridge for at least several hours or overnight. Half an hour or just before you're ready to serve, stir in a few handfuls each of dried cranberries and roasted cashews. I like adding these two last because with time, the cranberries tend to stain their neighbors and the cashews turn limp. If it sits for a while the salad will still taste good, but its texture and appearance will seem just a bit more worn.

If you'd like to lighten this up, I think subbing in yogurt for part of the mayo would work just fine, though I haven't tried it myself.
Anyway, I mixed up a batch for a potluck in the first few weeks of school, but due to a shortage of utensils and serving plates, it went largely uneaten in favor of more easily hand-held burgers and some pop-in-your-mouth mini empanadas. I took home the bowl and ate this salad for several days, after which it became endless. Just another case of one person, too much of a good thing.


  1. I love broccoli this looks delicious!

  2. Ruth, thanks for stopping by! I never much liked raw broccoli until this salad.

    Tracy, I hope you end up making the recipe!

  3. Sounds good. Do you use raw cashews, or roasted; salted or unsalted?

  4. Hi nbmandel, I use roasted, unsalted cashews for this salad. Thanks for dropping by!