Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Raw Broccoli Salad (With cherries! And parmesan!)

He was already wearing that green sweatshirt, I swear! (Not that I wouldn't have art-directed him into it.)

 I am so totally not a raw-food person. If you say the words “raw cashew crust” to me, for example, I am not going to want a bite of your pizza, and I don’t want any sprouted-sunflower “brownies.” Plus—I think I may have mentioned this before—I had a raw-food housemate in Santa Cruz who alternated chewing grains of brain rice, which he soaked overnight, with chain-smoking Marlboro reds. “Maybe cook your food and quit smoking?” I suggested, and he (fair enough) gave me the finger.


And yet. And yet, once I fall in love with something raw, the cooked version starts to seem off to me, debased. Sushi is a great example: raw salmon is, to me, the epitome of silky, luscious perfection, after which a piece of cooked fish suddenly tastes like the oily smell of cat food. Likewise, once we started eating kale raw, in the salad that this one is based on, cooked kale started to seem so limp and sulfurous—like all its vim and vigor, its robust green kaleness, had gone up in steam. And now broccoli.


I’m not saying I’ve given up my crack addiction. But a funny thing happened: we were testing an idea I’d had for ChopChop (it will be in the summer issue), whereby kids try out four different cooking methods with the exact same ingredients to better appreciate the fact that how you cook something really affects the way it tastes. Our ingredients were broccoli, salt, olive oil, and lemon: we roasted the broccoli, we sautéed it, we steamed and then dressed it, and we tasted it raw—with the oil and salt and lemon, still—just as a control. And, to my incredible surprise, the raw won my kids over. “But doesn’t the roasting really bring out the sweetness?” I asked them, and yes, it did, they could see that. Steaming brought a clarity of flavor, sure. But they just really liked the freshness and sweet crunch of the raw vegetable—the same way they’ll more happily eat a carrot right out of the ground than a cooked one. “Also,” Ben noted sagely, “I used the really good olive oil.” It was true; he did. But still.

And so I made this salad, in which the broccoli, like ceviche, is sort of cooked a bit by the vinegary dressing and turns bright green. It is completely delicious—garlicky, sharp, tender, crunchy, and vibrantly green-tasting—and, if you’re afraid, quite unlike the large, punishingly raw florets that might accompany the ranch dip at your work functions. The cherries add just the right amount of sweetness and chew, while the cheese contributes a little funky, salty richness. Yum.

"Honey, you don't have to eat all that--I was just faking it out for the photo." "I know. But can I?" (As seen on That's Incredible! Vegetable-Eating Children.)

Raw Broccoli Salad
This salad is great after an hour and even better the next day. Lightly fried sliced almonds are a delicious addition. My family has decided to hate walnuts, but they’d be good too, as would something like fried garlicky breadcrumbs. Be sure to cut the broccoli small so that it gets well coated by the dressing. And please note that the recipe calls for sherry vinegar--not sherry or cooking sherry.

2 pounds broccoli
½ cup olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and finely minced
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar)
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup freshly grated parmesan 
2/3 cup dried tart cherries (we get ours at Trader Joe’s)

Cut the broccoli into very small, but distinct pieces. I cut the crowns off the stems—but very close to the stem, so that they fall apart, or can get pulled apart, into very small florets. Then I peel the tough skin of the stems and chop the stems fairly fine. Put all the broccoli (except for the peels, which you can toss out) in a large bowl.

Now, in a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the garlic in it until fragrant and just on the verge of coloring (which you will need to intuit, given that it won’t have colored yet). Add the salt and vinegar, and stir for another minute as the vinegar sizzles furiously and the whole thing becomes outrageously fragrant. Pour the hot dressing over the broccoli and toss very thoroughly with a pair of tongs. Stir in the cheese and cherries, taste for salt (and, while you’re at it, for vinegar and oil), then cover and allow to sit for an hour at room temperature. Stir, taste again, re-season, and serve.


  1. Erin K.5:57 PM

    That sounds awesome (!) and also like I might want to add a smashed anchovy or two to the skillet. :)

  2. Anonymous7:30 PM

    Is it reasonable to use red wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar?


  4. This sounds amazing. And, because it's one of your recipes, I'm sure it is. I'm even willing to get over my deep-rooted dislike of raw broccoli to try it.

  5. Ok - as a devout hater of raw broccoli I was going to pooh pooh this recipe. But then I threw caution to the wind. I had all the ingredients, wanted to try something new and love the crack broccoli recipe. When have you led me astray? Never! This salad is definitely something special. I used the good olive oil, the real Parmesan cheese, and it was great!!

  6. At 6:45 this morning, my next door neighbor brought me a "smorgasbord" of food from her fridge before she bolted off to see her mom in California for the week. It includes a whole bunch of raw broccoli! Thank you for the instant menu planning!

  7. Anonymous4:39 AM

    What - you might sometimes fake your photos???? That would make me happier about the fact that my kids never look as happy as Ben and Birdy on the photos when faced with vegetables :) In fact one of them looks (and sounds) the exact opposite...

  8. Excellent salad! Would be decadent with bacon.

  9. Just made this and am letting it rest before Easter dinner. Samples have proven to be salty, crunchy and delicious! Thanks!

  10. Made this as a side dish for Easter dinner -- couldn't get the jellybean-stuffed kids to try it but the adults gobbled it down. Great recipe, thanks <3

  11. Catherine- Your chocolate cake saved the day when my 11yr old nephew forgot to let me know that he has become vegan. He's a good kid, brought his own frozen soybean and kelp or something pizza to dinner, but what about his gummy bear and milk choc filled easter basket? How am I meant to spoil him? As his Auntie, it is my JOB. Your "cake you want to eat" recipe is vegan, and so delicious. Thank you for it!

  12. YES!!! I have been thinking about a raw broccoli salad but didn't want to go wrong in the way that I sometimes grandly go wrong with a good food idea. This recipe sounds amazing. Thank you. Of course I'll have to use raisins and pecorino instead of cherries and parmesan, but that's OK, right?

  13. That looks delicious! Totally going to make it. Great to see you over at Real Simple, too. I was in the bookstore when I saw it and I almost said out loud "I know her!" which, um, I don't really. But I feel like I do through your writing. Happy for you! Andrea

  14. We made the broccoli and everyone ate it! The leftovers are gone!

    Thank you. In return, I give you Bacon Jam:


    awesome on hamburgers, already appeared in my potato soup, kids turned it into a version of a BLT... go ahead. Triple it. I'm sure it won't go to waste.


    1. Bacon jam! My goodness, Charlotte!

  15. Anonymous11:56 AM

    I adore this - with thanks and gratitude for your amazing writing and knowing what is in my heart - love and love!! Kathleen

  16. Fell in love with this recipe and posted my version of it. Just wanted to let you know I linked back to this post. Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. I finally made this. I love it. It's screaming my name from the fridge. I'm going to eat it for breakfast.

    I made it in the morning, but for dinner, because I like to do everything way in advance. I tasted it throughout the day to see how it was ceviche-ing and it was delicious throughout but I think kept getting better and better.

    Another thing: I was almost too tired to go to the dried cherries department of whole foods but I'm glad I did. The cherries are waaaaaaaay better than the craisins I was going to use instead would have been.

    I love your recipes. Thank you for thinking and sharing.