Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eat Your Veggies: Nutty Bacon-Broccoli Salad

We're good for you!
Eat Your Veggies is a pseudo-weekly series highlighting interesting ways of incorporating more vegetables into your diet.  There seems to be a wide swath of opinions on what a healthy diet is, but I think everybody can agree that veggies should be a big part of it! Plus unprocessed, plant based foods use less resources to produce and package than meat or things that come in boxes.  

I grew up with "salad" pretty much always meaning lettuce, green onions, and tomatoes, topped with ranch dressing.  And I'm not ashamed to admit thats pretty much always what I make now. But it grows tiresome, and those ingredients aren't always very good in the late fall and winter.  So, I turned to a broccoli salad to make a seasonally appropriate change to my side dish routine.  Broccoli is a great "starter" vegetable because it carries other flavors well without being too assertive.  Its also pleasantly crunchy, colorful, and keeps for a long time in the fridge.  

This dish consisted of broccoli and shallots, which were lightly sauteed in the drippings on one bacon slice.  The bacon added a slight meaty note to everything that I really enjoyed, but certainly isn't necessary if meat isn't your bag.  The dressing was creamy, garlicky, nutty, and sweet.  

Nutty, creamy, and full of shadows.
There was a lot going on in this dish.  While it was supposed to be a side dish, its complexity of flavor and texture easily eclipsed the lackluster butternut squash casserole that I served it with.  It pretty much saved the meal, and even caused my mom to reevaluate her negative opinion of peanut butter as a component of non-sandwich foods!

So maybe you don't like veggies.  But if you like peanut sauce, bacon or garlic, give this salad a try.  It could change everything!

Nutty Bacon-Broccoli Salad

2 large heads broccoli, cut into florets (3-4 cups)
1 largish shallot, sliced
1 bacon slice
Dressing: ¼ cup creamy peanut butter

2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
about 2 tablespoons warm water
1 apple (I used Golden Delicious, but any kind you enjoy eating raw is fine), sliced
Handful of slivered, toasted almonds

Fry the bacon slice over medium high heat until extra crispy.  Remove, let cool and crumble.

Add the shallot to the pan with the bacon grease and saute until it starts to get soft.  Add broccoli and stir fry until broccoli is warm and just beginning to get tender.  (It is better to err on the side of undercooked)

Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and honey in a small food processor (or blender, or you could just mince the garlic and whisk the ingredients together).  Process until smooth.  Add warm water as necessary to achieve a creamy yet spreadable consistency.  

Transfer hot broccoli to a large serving bowl and toss with dressing.  Top with apple slices, almonds, and crumbled bacon.  

This is vegan if you leave out the bacon. Stir fry the veggies in olive oil instead.
This is stricter vegan if you replace the honey with agave nectar.

(adapted from 101Cookbooks)

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