Many years ago, I got to spend one day doing kitchen prep work for an event featuring two of my all-time favorite cookbook authors–Ina Garten and Patricia Wells. I honestly don’t know how I held it together enough to dice chicken breasts and shred zucchini. The whole time I felt like I had to make a conscious effort not to blurt out “Oh my gosh I love you both so much and I have all your cookbooks and I want to learn everything you know and also can I come over to your house for lunch?” Somehow I managed not to do anything mortifying, and–even better–the two salads I helped to make were truly delicious.
The first Patricia Wells recipe I ever made was a broccoli salad. The broccoli is blanched and shocked in ice water, and then tossed with a lemon-pistachio oil dressing. You mound the broccoli on a serving platter and surround it with thin slices of avocado. Finally, to gild the lily, you shower the whole thing with chopped roasted and salted pistachios. The finished dish is a study in green, and at once creamy, crunchy, and salty. When Alex and I first started dating, it was one of the first things I made for him. It never fails to impress.
Another broccoli dish I love is Ina’s simple roasted broccoli with lemon, pine nuts and garlic. Let me just say, if you’ve been steaming your weeknight broccoli this whole time, you’re doing it wrong. Roasting is absolutely the way to go. Instead of mushy and waterlogged, the broccoli gets all crispy and charred. It’s totally addictive.
What could be better than a mash-up of the two? For this salad, I borrowed Ina’s idea of roasting the broccoli and applied it to Patricia’s salad. This is the kind of side dish that makes people forget about the main course. It’s perfect for the colder months, when we are all craving hearty, satisfying fare. If you don’t have pistachio oil don’t feel pressured to run out and buy it (it can be super expensive). Just use a really high quality olive oil for the dressing.
Broccoli Salad with Avocado and Pistachios
For the dressing
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons pistachio oil or high quality extra virgin olive oil
For the salad
- 2 heads of broccoli about 10 cups, cut into large florets
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large ripe avocado halved, peeled, and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped shelled roasted salted pistachios
Preheat the oven to 425ºF. To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice and pistachio or olive oil in a small jar and shake to blend.
On a large baking sheet, toss the broccoli with the olive oil until well coated and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the broccoli is crisp-tender and just beginning to brown in spots, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
To assemble the salad, mound the broccoli in the middle of a serving dish. Arrange the avocado slices around the broccoli. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the pistachios.