This is something I've wanted to make for quite a while now. I'm a vegetable lover, really, even though you wouldn't know it from this blog. So I wanted to take the time to give some love to the vegetables. It's their turn. Starting with broccoli, which, when cooked properly, is delicious. This ensemble has everything I want in a salad: texture, flavor, and color. Ever had a creamy, too-sweet broccoli salad at a pot-luck and wished you hadn't bothered? Well, this is a distant, more sophisticated, healthier relation. Grab a fork and dig in.
This recipe comes to you courtesy of 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite blogs to visit for amazing recipes, both savory and sweet. Heidi's flavor combinations are truly inspired: take the dressing for the salad, for instance. Garlic, oil, almond butter, honey, lemon juice. It's almost like a tahini dressing and you could use that if you have it on hand, but the nuttiness of the almond butter goes perfectly with the caramelized shallots and toasted nuts, as well as the sweetness of the honey and the bitter greenness of the broccoli.
One of my favorite things on this earth (besides chocolate) is a good caramelized onion. I'm not a huge fan of raw onions, but when they're cooked down to soft, melting strands of edible gold, their personality changes. They're nutty and sweet like browned butter and, sprinkled with some salt, they're irresistible.
The process takes some time, but it's well spent. Don't be tempted to take them out of the pan too early. You want the shallots to be as deeply golden as you can get them before they start burning. It's a fine line, but watch them carefully, stir often, and you will be rewarded.
There are a few steps to assembling all the components of this dish, but many of them can be done in advance, like toasting the almonds, browning the shallots, chopping and blanching the broccoli and making the dressing. Be sure to toss everything with the dressing right before you serve it, though, so everything stays crisp and delicious.
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Note: If you have a nut allergy, or would just like a variation on this salad, try sunflower seed butter instead of almond butter. It's nutty and sweet and we like to keep it on hand just for snacking. Substitute roasted, salted sunflower seeds for the almonds/candied walnuts.
2 heads broccoli, in florets (and stems, peeled and chopped, if desired)
1 clove garlic, peeled, minced
scant 1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 c. almond butter
3 T. lemon juice
1 t. honey
2 T. olive oil
2 T. hot water
2 small, crisp apples, in thin slices or bite size pieces
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin (soak in cold water 15-20 minutes to mellow harsh bite of raw onion- this
tip has changed my life.)
1/2 c. toasted almonds/ candied walnuts
1/3 c. pan-fried crunchy shallots
chives, to garnish (optional)
To cook shallots: Heat a swirl of olive oil in medium skillet. When hot, add thinly sliced shallots and a sprinkle of salt. Cook over medium heat and stir occasionally ( let them have plenty of contact with pan so they brown). When deep golden brown, about 15-20 minutes later, remove from skillet and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with a tiny bit more salt and let cool. (They may or may not crisp up, depending on how thin they were sliced and how long you cooked them. Mine didn't get very crispy, but for me the important thing was the flavor; there's plenty of texture going on.)
Cook broccoli: Heat a large pot of water to boiling, and, while you're waiting, fill a bowl half full with water and add a tray of ice cubes. When water boils, add some salt and the broccoli and cook 30 seconds, until bright green. Drain in a colander and immediately move to ice water. Swirl to cool broccoli and drain again. Pat dry with paper towels.
For dressing: Sprinkle 1/4 t. salt over minced garlic on a cutting board and mash to a paste with the back of a small spoon. Place in a medium bowl and add almond butter, lemon juice, honey, and olive oil; whisk well. Add hot water and whisk again until smooth and just thin enough to drizzle. Taste for seasoning and add more salt/ honey/ lemon juice to taste. In a bowl, toss broccoli, apples, onion (drained and patted dry, if soaking), most of shallots and nuts. Add about half of dressing and toss to blend. Add more dressing to taste. Move to a platter and garnish with rest of shallots and chives.