Broccoli Salad with Raisins or What to Take to a Potluck

broccoli salad with raisinsIt would seem I’m on a bit of a broccoli bender. First came the challenge of concocting a brunch recipe with broccoli that yielded the highly flavorful broccoli breakfast tostadas smeared with an Aleppo pepper white bean spread, roasted broccoli, a dollop of labneh, and a sprinkling of sambal oelek, giving that meal that encompasses two meals a bit of flair. Then came Jeff Friedman’s Pan-Sauteed Broccoli with Walnuts, paired with an homage to our King Arthur visit. Just when you thought the green crown had been deposed, it’s still in charge.

Sometimes the CSA delivery surprises me not with what’s inside but with its arrival. Notoriously, I heed some inner alert to buy vegetables for the crisper the evening before the brown cardboard box greets us with its array of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s happened often enough that I’ve had to get creative about assessing its contents and the newly procured produce to deduce what will go bad quickly. Broccoli usually passes the test, like a small tree uprooted whose crown keeps green. This buys me time and as such has made broccoli an indispensable addition to the regular rotation.

broccoli salad with raisins

Recently, after attending a Big Traveling Potluck, I found myself happily saddled with a block of Kerrygold Skelling cheese. Tucked in an insulated bag, deep in the confines of my suitcase, it became one of my “food-venirs” to make the journey back up north to San Francisco from San Diego. Like the contents of our CSA box, the unexpected block of cheese was whisked into the fridge where it greeted us each time we opened the door, somewhat bewildered how to use it best. Part of the cheese slid off the block and onto a cheeseboard with a little help of prunes and crackers. Another bit made its way from the block into the mouth with ease and this might have continued if the crisper had not beckoned.

The notion of salads doused in mayonnaise somehow leaves me limp like greens past their prime. One evening I discovered that the drawer I thoughts had held spinach was bare. In its place, the head of broccoli eyed me with promise. Recent broccoli boasts included different techniques- pan-sauteeing and roasted, why not add a raw offering to the mix? Raw broccoli contrary to a misconception I had growing up is not bitter but crunchy and a good foil for other flavors. Punched up with mini cubes of the Skelling cheese, sweetness from fennel, raisins and a bit of maple makes this salad surprising without any mayonnaise marring its flavor.  If I’m going to get fixated on an ingredient, and I do all the time, then broccoli’s time has peaked. I can think of worse things to vie for space in the crisper. broccoli salad with raisins



You’ll find this recipe calls for hemp hearts and avocado. I think this greatly makes up for the lack of mayonnaise as it’s still full of fats, albeit healthy ones. Hemp hearts are fantastic- they’re slightly nutty and a delicious way to also add some omega 6’s to your meal. Hemp hearts are what you find inside hemp seeds. Both are available at grocery stores, but keep in mind that hemp seeds are crunchy as you also eat the outer shell as well as the heart. It’s your call as to which one to use here, but I find the fennel and broccoli provide ample crunch on their own. To store hemp hearts, pour them into a wide mouthed mason jar and freeze until your next use of them. This should keep them fresh for several months. A big thank you to the California Avocado Commission for a bag of San Diego avocados that found their way into this salad and the block of Skelling Kerrygold cheese, both from the Big Traveling Potluck and both of which provided important elements for the salad. It goes without saying that all opinions are my own.

YIELD: 4-6 servings




1 bunch broccoli, diced

1 fennel bulb, diced

2 oz. sweet cheddar (I used Kerrygold Skelling)

¼ cup pecans, chopped

¼ cup raisins

2 tablespoons hemp hearts

avocado, cut into slices



1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced




1 tablespoon fennel frond, minced



  1. In a large bowl, toss diced broccoli, fennel, cheese, pecans, raisins and hemp hearts. Set aside.
  2. Pull out the avocado pit. Cut each avocado half into slices and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, olive oil and garlic. Grind black pepper to taste.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
  5. When plating the salad, spoon out the avocado slices on top of the salad on each serving plate.



Jeff Friedman’s Pan-Sauteed Broccoli with Walnuts

Poet Jeff Friedman

Jeff Friedman and I don’t argue often, but when it comes to bread, we’ve almost come to blows. Okay, maybe that’s overstating things but he has tried convincing me that New England’s bread economy rivals San Francisco’s. Part of his argument included a visit to King Arthur Flour last time I ventured to New England. Whenever he finally makes it out to San Francisco, I plan on taking him to Bar Tartine for a loaf or even a few slices of Chad Robertson’s legendary Oat Porridge. I’m not convinced the Porridge bread would make the cross-country voyage or that it would make it off of my cutting board where I stealthily sneak pieces to toast with alarming frequency. It’s that good.

King Arthur Flour_pastries

On our outing to King Arthur, we surveyed the pastry case with glee. And, while we peered in like hungry wolves, we didn’t buy anything. This is saying a lot. One thing we share in common is a voracious sweet tooth that’s not easily satisfied. So, it should come as no surprise that one of my purchases in their retail store included a bag of Black Cocoa.

I was immediately intrigued by the name and claims on the bag. This may not be the right point of context but imagine tearing the side of the packaging from a newly opened bag of oreo’s. Breathe in the smell and peel off the upper cookie, scraping the white contents with your teeth. Then plunge the scraped cookie into your mouth and chew. This is surprisingly what Black Cocoa smells and tastes like- the oreo cookies of my childhood. This is also to say I haven’t found the right application yet to share a recipe here. It has a tendency of exacerbating the adage “a little bit going a long way” and like a red feather boa can be a bit garish when worn out of context.

King Arthur Flour Retail Shop

As we meandered around the retail store, I found myself transfixed by the walls and shelves filled with any kind of flour combination you can imagine. These bags and boxes taunted me with promises of pancakes! Biscuits! Pizza! I had to continually remind my enthusiasm about the controlled parameters of my red suitcase. We marveled at the demo kitchen set up in the middle of the store and noshed on a sample of warm blueberry muffin, recently pulled from the oven. As we wound our way over to the oils and spices section, I picked up a jar of Vietnamese Cinnamon, knowing the price was too good to not find a blouse I’d packed to wrap around it as an invitational into the luggage. Jeff picked one up as well and we moseyed over to the oils, as I exulted on the merits of making space in a spice rack / flavor pantry for toasted walnut oil. It’s a bit of a splurge, but completely worth it’s weight in drizzle.

King Arthur Demo Kitchen

Jeff left with a jar of Vietnamese Cinnamon and a vessel of Toasted Walnut Oil. In spite of my attempts to curb my zeal, I made off with a bag of Ancient Grain flour blend, cheese powder, black cocoa and Vietnamese cinnamon. In the larger scheme of things, my restraint would be rewarded. Food and poetry flit in and out of our conversation just like talking about bread bakers or a Galway Kinnell poem. In the end, who really knows which coast bakes the best bread? I’m inclined to think the best loaf is the one you break and share, even if that “bread” is time spent trolling a flour store discussing recipe ideas or snippets of literature with a kindred spirit.

Jeff Friedman Roasted Broccoli with Walnuts



JEFF’S NOTES: “Originally I made this dish several years ago when poet Ross Gay came to visit. I had purchased some sweet basil oil and wanted to use it on the broccoli… Ross likes all his food hot so we decided to sauté garlic with lots of crushed red pepper and then toss the broccoli with sweet basil oil.  The recipe was good, but not anything I wanted to make on a regular basis. I normally roast broccoli because it’s so easy and delicious. Anyway, Annelies came for a visit, and we went shopping at the King Arthur Store in Norwich, Vermont. She recommended that I purchase toasted walnut oil and Vietnamese cinnamon, both of which I now use regularly. (The cinnamon is definitely amazing.)  Substituting toasted walnut oil for sweet basil oil and adding sliced almonds transformed the dish. This is simple to make.”


3 large heads of broccoli cut into 2-inch branches

3-4 med-large cloves of garlic

3 tbs of olive oil

1 ½-2 tbs walnut oil

walnut slices (toast in pan)

crushed red pepper

salt and pepper



1.Steam broccoli until it is tender.

2.While the broccoli is steaming, saute garlic in olive oil adding crushed red pepper.

3.When broccoli is ready, put it in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and pinches of crushed red pepper.

4.Toss with sauteed garlic and crushed red pepper.

5.Toss again with walnut oil.

6. Add sliced walnuts and serve.


MY NOTE: I often eat this as is, but sometimes I add parmesan cheese at the end, also very good.. There should be enough left over to heat up in a skillet for a day or two. I think this could also work well pureed into soup.




Broccoli Breakfast Tostadas

Broccoli Breakfast Tostadas


Broccoli gets passed over

so easily, perhaps florets

for breakfast don’t appeal.

It’s time to reconsider the

crown for the morning meal.


Break it up with a sharp

knife into bite-size bits.

Toss in fresh lemon zest

and garlic-infused olive oil

to convince an ornery guest.


Start with a humble tostada,

It transforms from tortilla

rounding its back with firm

resolve. Next come the beans,

their assembly questions the term


refried. White beans blend with

lemon, browned garlic, and spice.

Aleppo pepper and sumac turn the

pale hue peach and imbue a bit of

tart to play off the smashed garlic.


Now, smear bean spread on

the tostada, scatter its surface

with roasted broccoli bits and

stack julienne radish for crunch.

Pickle your radishes if you can


stand waiting. That tinge of sour pulls

it all together as your tostada takes

shape on an emerging colorful plate.

Protein, veggies, whole grains too,

tostadas might emerge in a spate


of recipes with no lack of application.

Back to our broccoli breakfast tostadas,

dab on spicy sambal oelek for heat.

And if desired, add a dollop of creamy

labneh on top for a mid-morning treat.


Not convinced? Most of it can be done

ahead. The day before: toast tortillas

into tostadas, make the bean spread,

slice radishes (or quick pickle them!)

and you, my friend are one step ahead.


What remains is to roast the broccoli

and assemble the morning of brunch.

You should score points for flavor,

color and comments from guests like,

This is a brunch that I want to savor.


For a traditional recipe write-up, 

 check out this broccoli brunch-off.