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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Broccoli Stem Salad with Lemongrass Vinaigrette


Don't throw away your  broccoli stems! The centers are tender and full of flavor. They're the stars of this dish, which turned  into a rainbow of colors, textures, and flavors. I often cook broccoli stems along with the florets, but this time I used only the stems and saved the tops for another meal. Along with other crunchy vegetables and chopped peanuts, this salad is light but filling.

Lemongrass is tough, fibrous, and amazingly fragrant. To get the most out of it, I like to blend it into sauces and dressing. This Vietnamese-style vinaigrette also features the naturally savory flavors of tamari and fish sauce, a touch of honey for sweetness, some fresh chili peppers for heat, and aromatics like garlic, ginger, and shallot. It's well-balanced, healthy, and delicious.

This kind of vinaigrette is often paired with cucumbers and cilantro or mint, but instead I used carrots, peppers, and parsley. You can substitute ribbons of zucchini, thinly sliced cabbage, or your favorite salad greens if you wish. It's a good opportunity to use what you have in your garden or fridge.

This recipe yields two large salads or 4 to 6 starter or side dish portions. If you're making it a main course, top it with chunks of flaky whitefish like barramundi, sautéed or steamed and tossed with a splash of the vinaigrette. Or grilled chicken. Or cubes of sautéed tempeh.

My mandolin made quick work of thinly slicing the shallot and pepper but you could do it by hand if you have a sharp knife and good knife skills.

For the Lemongrass Vinaigrette:
3 organic limes
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 green bird chili or other fresh chili pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 inches fresh ginger root, grated
1 small shallot, roughly chopped

For the salad:
4 broccoli stems, grated
1 carrot, any color, peeled into ribbons
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 or 2 bird chili peppers (optional), thinly sliced 
1/2 cup parsley leaves lightly packed, chopped, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup blistered or dry roasted peanuts, chopped, plus more for garnish
  1. Make the Lemongrass Vinaigrette: Zest the limes into a Vitamix or blender (about 1 tablespoon lightly packed). Add 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice, along with the lemongrass, vinegar, fish sauce, tamari, sesame oil, coconut oil, honey, chili pepper, garlic, ginger, and shallot. Purée until smooth. 
  2. Taste for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. You can add a splash of water to dilute it a bit if need be. Makes about a cup and a half.
  3. Make the salad: Add the broccoli stems, carrot, shallot, bell pepper, and chili pepper to a large mixing bowl. Reserve some of the parsley and peanuts for garnish, then add the rest to the bowl. Toss with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat everything well. Store excess Lemongrass Vinaigrette in an air-tight glass jar in the fridge.
  4. Transfer the salad to a serving dish and garnish with the reserved parsley leaves and peanuts. Serve immediately.

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