Loaded broccoli salad

I’ve been back at it with make-ahead lunches after a few weeks (months?) of buying lunch on the go most days. I still love that treat every now and then, but the habit of bringing lunch most days is a much better one to nail down.

My love of unique make-ahead “salads” is well documented on the Pastiche, and the broccoli salad route is one I venture down fairly often but haven’t yet featured on here. And as is the case with so many of the salads I talk about, these are not hard and fast recipe rules—I often just use more of what I have on hand as opposed to buying all new ingredients. However, the general theme is this: I love a sweeter dressing on my broccoli salad because here’s what I DON’T love: raisins. Raisins are commonly found in broccoli salad, and although I existentially and theoretically respect that choice, I can’t, in reality, practice that choice. And so, I think a sweet sesame dressing is perfect here—creamy but light, and much thinner than other versions I’ve had. I also love an array of snaps, crisps, and crunches: i.e. radish, onion, celery, pine nuts, and salted almonds. And of course the savory, salty bite of pancetta, which tastes a little less meaty/fatty than bacon (although I’m certainly not going to scoff at bacon, either). A handful of chopped fresh parsley brightens everything up, which is also important to me with a creamy salad that can too often taste very heavy. I love this salad, and the ease with which it can be thrown together the day or night before, or in my case to help stave off the Sunday Scaries. 

Loaded broccoli salad

Yields 2 main portions or 4 side portions
Head of broccoli, pulled apart into large florets
¼ cup pine nuts
3 pieces of pancetta (or bacon), sliced to the thickness of bacon, although mine was thinner
¼ cup diced red onion
½ cup sliced celery, leaves (chopped) included
3 radishes, cut in half and sliced into thin half-moons
¼ cup salted and roasted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
Dressing, recipe below

Sweet sesame dressing

⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp pure sesame oil (found in the Asian aisle at the supermarket—I like this kind)
2 tsp honey
1½ T rice wine vinegar
Pinch crushed or ground red pepper flakes
Generous pinch of salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Begin by making the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and shake vigorously (or whisk vigorously in a bowl until smooth). Set aside. Over high heat, steam broccoli in a pan of very shallow water, covered, for about 1-2 minutes, just to soften slightly. Immediately run the broccoli under cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain very well. Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium-low heat, watching very carefully and shaking pan almost constantly to not burn, for about 2-3 minutes until lightly golden in parts. Set aside. Use same skillet to cook pancetta over medium low heat until crisp. Set on a paper towel to cool, and then break up into small pieces. Now rough chop the broccoli florets to be bite sized pieces—not too small. In a medium bowl, combine broccoli, red onion, celery, radish, pancetta, pine nuts, and almonds. Pour dressing over the top, and use tongs to toss until mixed well. Store in fridge until ready to eat.