I love vegetables. But, like anyone faced with a rotating roster of pretty repetitive leafy greens, boredom can lead to bad habits. (Looking at a plate of food with dread is a pretty strong indication that something isn’t working. You want to enjoy your food, no matter how simple or elaborate the dish. But who has the time to be creative with dinner every night? Not me.)
Enter Savage Salads. My sister discovered this refreshing cookbook somewhere in between our third or fourth conversation about the fact that we both needed to eat more vegetables. (It turns out, fancy breads and cheeses cannot sustain you, as much as we would like that to be the case.) Written by Davide Del Gatto and Kristina Gustafsson, the creative minds behind an incredibly successful food stall in London, the Savage Salads cookbook insists that “salads should taste amazing, look beautiful, and leave you full.”
There are plenty of excellent salad recipes in this book, and I encourage trying them all if you get a copy (it was released in 2016 but is still sold at Indigo and on Amazon starting at $23), but what I’m obsessed with is one particular recipe: Five Minute Salad, in the Spring chapter (the book is organized by season, with an additional section on dressings and dips). It has changed my salad game, big-time.
What’s so special about this broccoli salad?
There are so many vegetables out there—especially in spring and summer—but I always fall back on lettuce as the base ingredient for every single salad I make. But the regular veggies (broccoli is an affordable nutrient powerhouse), herbs, textures and flavours in this broccoli salad recipe became a green bowl of goodness that I couldn’t wait to eat.
It’s just five simple ingredients—blanched broccoli, grapefruit, watercress, feta and almonds—paired with a lightning-fast dressing of white wine vinegar, mint, olive oil and salt. There’s no romaine anywhere, and it’s super fresh.
Does it really take five minutes?
That part is a bit of a stretch, because you have to blanch the broccoli (throw it in boiling water for 3 minutes, then rinse in cold water) and segment a grapefruit. I’d say it’s really more of a Ten Minute Salad, at least until you get the hang of the knife work.
What if I can’t find all five ingredients?
Since I first started making this salad, I’ve had trouble reliably finding watercress. When that happens, I freestyle. Here are my favourite ways to mix it up (but don’t skip out on the mint!):
1. No watercress?
Try pea shoots, microgreens and/or torn basil leaves and extra mint.
2. Out of white wine vinegar for the dressing?
Squeeze the grapefruit juice from the leftovers after segmenting and use that instead. (I also like to zest the grapefruit when I remember, it gives the improvised grapefruit-juice dressing a little more punch.)
3. No grapefruit?
Oranges work just as well.
4. The dressing is flexible
The dressing is so simple that you barely need to measure it to put it together. And while it doesn’t need them, it can handle a lot of additions. For a pre-prepped lunch, I’ll stick to the book. But sometimes when I make it for dinner, I add orange or grapefruit zest, toasted and crushed pine nuts, and minced shallots.
Thanks to this savage broccoli salad, I won’t be reaching for leaf lettuce again anytime soon.