Everyone had a dinner chore in my parent’s house. My mom cooked, my dad cleaned, my brother emptied the dishwasher, and I made salad. I’m not sure how and why salad got sliced off the dinner cooking, or how I escaped more boring chores like setting the table, but every night I made salad. Sometimes it was an inconvenience but most times I enjoyed the process. Even if I’m largely in it for the dressing, I’ve still always been a fan of salad and as the person in charge I could make it any way I wanted.
We went through phases of eating different salads. Sometimes it would be just lettuce, tomato, and cucumber; other times I would make what my mom called a “kitchen sink salad” where I would dump just about everything I could find into the salad bowl. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but honestly you can’t really go that wrong with salad so when it wasn’t great we ate it anyway.
There were a few constants. Every salad started with lettuce. Mostly mixed greens, sometimes romaine, and occasionally baby spinach. Never anything as crazy as kale and certainly no salad was complete without it. The other requirement: nothing hot. Salad was served cold (unless it was taco salad which was never a side dish and which exempted me from salad duty anyway) and if it included cooked foods, they were leftovers that needed to be used up. That me would probably not have made this broccoli and bacon salad as part of the nightly routine. And that’s really a shame.
This is quite an excellent salad, lettuce or not. The salty bacon and pistachio bites get tangled in the broccoli tops and the fact that it’s served room temperature and with vinaigrette makes it more like a salad than a side dish. I can’t say we have dinner “chores” now but would I make this as a salad for dinner? Absolutely.
Broccoli and Bacon Salad
I originally made this salad with raw kale (rubbed a bit to soften the leaves) which was delicious. And I made a variation of it with apples and lemon vinaigrette instead of pistachios and balsamic vinaigrette – also a great choice.
Makes about 4 servings
2 – 4 pieces of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch lardons
1 – 1 1/2 lbs broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp oil/bacon fat
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup pistachios, makes about 1/2 cup shelled and chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette*
1/4 cup parmesan shavings (optional, I thought about adding these but didn’t but I wouldn’t have been sad to have them there)
In a large pan over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring often until it’s crispy (I like more crispy, you may like less crispy, make it however you like). Remove it from the pan and pour out most of the fat from the pan. Keep about a teaspoon to cook the broccoli (or use a different fat, like olive oil).
At this point you have two choices. You can pan sauté the broccoli (cook it in the pan on medium-high with the bacon fat and the kosher salt for 5-10 minutes until it’s tender-crisp and a little brown on the edges) or you can roast it (preheat the oven to 475F, toss the broccoli with fat and salt, roast for 10 minutes, toss everything around a bit on the pan, and then roast for 5 more minutes).
Toss the bacon, broccoli, pistachios, and vinaigrette in a bowl and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a week. Let the dish come to room temperature before eating it or you can warm it up slightly. The bacon fat might solidify in the fridge but it should melt again when it comes to room temperature.
* You can go an alternate route here and instead of using the vinaigrette you can combine some of the leftover bacon grease (about 2 tablespoons) with 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar on the salad for an extra bacon-y taste.