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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Broccoli Salad


Broccoli and other vegetables in the Brassicaceae family help the liver eliminate carcinogens and other toxins we're exposed to every day. They are also a rich source of antioxidants with anti-cancer activity.

Because these special compounds are destroyed by boiling, eat these vegetables steamed until crisp-tender or raw, like in this salad. A surprising combination of tender broccoli, crunchy pecans, soft blueberries, sharp red onion and a creamy yogurt dressing make it an unusual but delicious dish.

This salad also calls for bacon. Many people think of bacon as an unhealthy and artery-clogging food, but saturated fats don't cause cardiovascular disease (sugar and oxidized fats do). And when meat comes from animals raised on pasture, it can be part of a healthy diet for those who choose to eat it.

Unlike grain-fed meat, grass-fed meat is a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Meat that comes from animals raised on grains, like corn and soybeans, is high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Consuming too many omega-6 fats from grains, grain-fed meat, and processed foods made with soybean oil or corn oil, is certainly a significant factor in the current crisis of inflammatory illness. Chronic and deadly diseases linked to both diet and inflammation include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Together, these three conditions currently kill two out of every three people in the United States.

To protect your health, seek out meat, milk and eggs from animals raised on pasture. These products are often more expensive than their grain-fed counterparts, but remember that quality is more important than quantity. It's better to eat smaller amounts of grass-fed meat than larger amounts of grain-fed meat. A little meat can go along way, so think of it as a healthy condiment for a plant-based diet.

This broccoli salad is a great example, and it's my version of a family favorite. I dressed it up with dried blueberries, but you can substitute any other unsweetened, dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries. If you can't find grass-fed pork, or if you don't eat pork, skip the bacon and make a vegetarian version of this salad.

It's a great dish to make ahead of time. I often prepare it on the weekend and eat it throughout the week. But be sure to keep the dressing separate from the other ingredients until you're ready to eat it.

For a crunchy salad, toss it with the dressing just before you serve it. For a softer salad, toss it 15 to 30 minutes prior.

4 slices heritage bacon from pasture-raised pigs
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw walnuts, pecans or pistachios
2 tbsp whole milk plain yogurt from grass-fed cows
2 tbsp real mayonnaise, or substitute more yogurt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp raw local honey
Sea salt to taste
Ground peppercorn to taste
1 bunch broccoli, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup red onion or scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried unsweetened blueberries,  cherries or cranberries (no oil or sugar added)
1/4 cup dried unsweetened golden raisins (no oil or sugar added)

Sauté the bacon until most of the fat has rendered. Cool to room temperature, chop or crumble and set aside.

If desired, toast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Repeat with the pecans. Set aside to cool.

In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, maple syrup, sea salt and peppercorn until smooth. Add the broccoli, blueberries, raisins, sunflower seeds and pecans to the bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped bacon. Serve immediately or within one hour.

If making farther in advance, make the dressing in a small bowl and combine the other ingredients in a separate large bowl.  Toss everything together when ready to serve.

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