I'm not proud of this, but there was a time in my life when I thought I hated salad.
And by "a time," I mean roughly two decades.
Salad was just such an easy target for loathing. So often all lifeless and wilted, like a day-old water balloon. The ones I'd encountered were unsatisfying in their frequent lack of textural contrasts. You couldn't make and pack them ahead unless you wanted to end up with something that resembled your original dish in name only. Plus, most salads (and slaws) that I met were either underdressed or overdressed—the latter being, of course, favorable to me, but I think that's more a testament to dressing. (This was, of course, before Food52's "Mighty Salads," Joshua McFadden's reign at Franny's, and the fast-casual takeaway salad boom. And for the record, I loved an Alice Waters vinaigrette just as much as the next Northern Californian, but I preferred to dip baguette in it.) So, I could tolerate eating salad, but I never truly enjoyed it.
Until, one day in my early 20s, I came home with two heads of broccoli, and an enormous appetite.
My intention was to roast said broccoli, but I'm neither a particularly patient cook, nor one who has any qualms "taste-testing" along the way. It was inevitable, then, that I should at some point in my preparations for this miso-roasted number, pluck a large floret from the cutting board and pop it into my mouth.
It was revelatory, for me: Raw broccoli is absolutely delicious.
I turned off the oven, abandoned my sheet pan, and immediately got chopping.
I've since riffed on that raw broccoli slaw so many times that I probably couldn't pick the original out of a line-up. Thin slices of broccoli go with literally every other salad-friendly ingredient — from citrus, to dried fruit, to hearty, cooked grains, to pickles, to breadcrumbs, to canned or fresh legumes, to cheese — and best of all, broccoli stands up well to time. Meaning a salad made from broccoli is a make-ahead-lunch (or dinner) dream.
This one, which pairs broccoli simply with sliced apple, chopped walnuts, and a beautifully flavorful pesto dressing, is my favorite of the bunch. I eat it year-round, on its own for a meal, or as a side.
It goes very nicely with roasted chicken or salmon — or, if you're like the new me, with another salad.
Broccoli Salad With Pesto, Apples & Walnuts
Makes: about 4 1/2 cups salad
1 1/3 cups tightly packed, cleaned and dried basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled (the newer/fresher, the better)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts, divided into 2/3 cup and 1/3 cup (raw)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small head of broccoli
1 large Honeycrisp apple (or similar), rinsed but not peeled
Click here to read the full recipe.