While we sometimes
bitch and moan whine about winter vegetables this time of year, we do enjoy them quite a bit. It just takes a little more work to get the best out of them, and being as lazy as the next guy, we prefer more flavor and less work. In summer we put most fresh veggies on a plate with some olive oil and salt, or give them a quick sauté and voilà! Perfection (well, at least a good dish). In winter, we break out our thinking caps and some cookbooks and get to work. So when Carolyn brought home some purple broccoli and broccoflower (or romanesco, depending on appearance), we got off our butts motivated and made this salad. And it turned out well enough to make the blog, and become a regular dish here at the farm.
This salad combines blanched cauliflower and broccoli with sharp pecorino cheese, crisp apples, hazelnuts and bacon (optional) with a classic vinaigrette. Our goal was to build a dish that covers multiple flavors and textures but still highlights the inherent sweetness and crunch of the vegetables. The broccoli and cauliflower still lead, but the cheese and bacon add salt and umami, the apples acidity and crunch and the hazelnuts add nutty and slightly bitter undertones. The vinaigrette brings it all together. It is a very pleasant bite and will even get kids to eat their broccoli (we tested it, it worked).
And the cool thing about this salad is that you can interchange almost any variety of broccoli or cauliflower. So if you have purple broccoli, broccoflower, romanesco or orange cauliflower, they will all work. And if you just want either broccoli or cauliflower, that works too, but we do suggest a combination as they play well together. If you get lucky at the market you can make this salad with a full range of colors, it will be beautiful and a good dish for entertaining. And all you need to do is chop and boil water, so it is an easy dish.
We would go so far as to say this is a very easy dish. The only extra work making this salad is blanching the veggies so they are cooked but still have crunch. We do this by boiling the broccoli and cauliflower florets in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and then stopping the cooking by rinsing the veggies under very cold water (or in an ice bath). Then you just chop some crisp apples, slice some cheese, brown some bacon and chop the nuts. We also toast the hazelnuts for extra flavor, but that is an optional step. And the vinaigrette is as traditional as you can get; olive oil, vinegar, a touch of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. But when the rest of the ingredients play together so well, all you want the dressing to do is bring it all together.
Notes Before You Start:
- We used purple broccoli and broccoflower in this version of the recipe but pretty much any version of broccoli and cauliflower will do.
- Pecorino, a sharp sheep’s milk cheese is the best fit for this dish, but you can substitute any sharp semi-dry cheese.
What You Get: A very brightly flavored winter salad. It’s good for you, too.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? About 10 -15 minutes. Anytime dish.
- 2 large heads of cauliflower and/or broccoli, florets cut from the stalks
- 2 – 3 oz. pecorino cheese, shaved or sliced
- 1 crisp apple (like Granny Smith), cored and sliced
- 2 -3 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 tablespoon champagne or sherry vinegar
- 1 scant tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cauliflower florets and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, or until the veggies cook but are still crunchy. Immediately remove from the water and chill in a strainer under cold running water or in an ice bath.
- Meanwhile place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon lardons and cook until browned and crispy, about 5 – 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on a paper towel.
- Add the olive oil, vinegar and mustard to a small bowl and whisk until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Combine the broccoli, cauliflower, apples, cheese, nuts and bacon in a large salad bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss. Taste and add more dressing and seasoning as needed. Serve.
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