Loving super-nutritious broccoli is easy when it's dressed just right

  • Broccoli salad with walnuts and raisins.

    Broccoli salad with walnuts and raisins. Courtesy of Don Mauer

 
 
Updated 8/11/2022 10:05 AM

This is a best of Lean and lovin' it column, first published on June 19, 2018. Don Mauer is taking some time off.

Who loves broccoli? Hmm, not that many hands went up. Broccoli's one of those love-it-or-hate-it vegetables.

 

If what's been written about broccoli having nearly super nutritional powers is correct, it's better to like it a little than to hate it.

If you believe broccoli's strong in nutrients, look at broccoli sprouts. They are ultra-nutritious.

I love broccoli and have all my life. Mom was pretty good about not overcooking broccoli, serving it with a dollop of mayonnaise on the side. Now before you shriek: "Ewwww, gross," consider this.

Fancy restaurants serve broccoli with hollandaise sauce, which is butter, lemon juice and egg yolks.

From what is mayonnaise made? Vegetable oil, lemon juice and egg yolks. Some might say that hollandaise sauce is a butter-based mayonnaise served warm.

I'm new to broccoli sprouts and thought they'd be an excellent substitute for lettuce in a sandwich.

Being on the edge of summer got me thinking about other ways to use broccoli, together with broccoli sprouts. I've had my fair share of broccoli salads made with various nuts. Some have added cheese along with raisins. Some are made with chopped-up cooked chicken. All have a mayonnaise-based dressing.

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Over the years, I've gotten a lot pickier about mayonnaise. I used low-fat mayonnaise for a long time until they figured out how to make fat-free mayonnaise. Sure, that trimmed a lot of fat, but when you pull back the wizard's curtain, you quickly learn that chemical thickeners and high-fructose corn syrup make that work.

The advent of low- or no-fat dressings was important when you understand real mayonnaise delivers 100 calories per level tablespoon and 99% of those calories come from fat.

Today I steer clear of iffy oils and sugary sweeteners. I now use real mayonnaise made with healthy avocado oil. The brand I use has zero added sugars, too. Over the last few years, I've also made my own mayonnaise with extra-virgin organic olive oil. The flavor is so big I can use less mayonnaise and cut back on calories without any tricks.

Knowing that broccoli is healthy made me wonder if I could make a healthy and tasty broccoli salad with full-grown broccoli and broccoli sprouts.

I decided to use better-for-me organic bacon, walnuts in my new salad, and sweet golden raisins to balance the salt from the bacon. Blanching the broccoli boosted the color and made it easier to eat. There's nothing worse than gray-looking, overcooked broccoli.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Using shallots instead of onions delivered a rounder flavor, and sherry vinegar stood up to the mayo with its big, bold flavor. A little stevia helped smooth out all the flavors and cut the edge off the vinegar.

How did my healthier salad creation turn out? Sensational. Guests at a Saturday barbecue ate it all, right down to the bottom of the serving bowl. Hard to believe how good healthy food can taste.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at 1leanwizard@gmail.com.

Broccoli and Bacon Salad with Walnuts and Raisins

6 slices organic uncured pork bacon (I used Applegate), chopped fine

1½ pounds organic broccoli (stalks peeled and cut into ¼-inch thick slices, florets cut into 1-inch pieces)

½ cup avocado mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 packets organic stevia

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse

1 large shallot, peeled, ends trimmed and minced

4-ounce package fresh broccoli sprouts, rinsed well and drained

Place a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat and when hot, add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 8 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Set aside.

Bring a 5-quart saucepan two-thirds filled with cold water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 2 minutes.

While the broccoli cooks, add four cups of cold water and four cups of ice to a large bowl and set aside. Using a slotted spoon transfer the cooked broccoli to the ice water and leave until the ice melts. Transfer the cold broccoli to a colander and drain well.

While the broccoli drains; in a medium mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, stevia, salt and pepper until combined. Set aside.

Add the cold broccoli, raisins, walnuts and shallots to a large mixing bowl and stir together. Pull apart the broccoli sprouts and distribute in the bowl. Add the mayonnaise dressing and using a rubber spatula fold and stir the salad until coated with the dressing. Serve immediately.

Notes: If not serving immediately, wait to add the sprouts until ready to serve. If you're not planning to serve the salad right away, note that in about 2 hours the broccoli will turn a drab green from the vinegar. Toasted pecans or cashews may be substituted for the walnuts. Can't find golden raisins? Substitute seedless raisins or dried, sweetened cranberries. Balsamic vinegar or white balsamic vinegar may be substituted for the sherry vinegar; omitting the stevia. To cut fat and calories, low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise may be substituted.

Makes 6 cups

Nutrition values per serving: 332 calories (72% from fat), 26.6 g fat (3.8 g saturated fat), 21.1 g carbohydrates, 3.8 g sugars, 5.2 g fiber, 8.6 g protein, 9 mg cholesterol, 584 mg sodium.

Don Mauer

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