Another salad with enough weight and complexity to be eaten as a meal on its own – as lunch or supper, but also fantastic as a side to whatever else might be on the menu. Although my mind is on spring this salad would work in any season. It has all the elements you are looking for in a delicious salad – something raw and zingy in the red onion, something crunchy with your croutons and almonds, something rich to carry the flavours and make it a substantial in the cheese, and something green and virtuous in the broccoli. Spinach or rocket tossed through this is also a great idea.
Medjool dates are certainly a luxury item and I will often use ordinary dry dates in baking recipes soaking them to reconstitute if necessary. But if you haven’t tried them before I suggest you treat your self to a handful of fresh medjool dates. Easy to prepare, you can simply tear them in half and remove the seed and put a brazil nut in its place for one of the best instant healthy treats you will ever eat – great for two or three o’clock in the afternoon when you start circling the refrigerator ready to eat anything quick and easy and usually not recommended for best health. Or you can take them to the next level, by warming a little olive oil in a pan and sautéing them carefully with a pinch of flakey malden sea salt (as I do for this salad) and then add them to your next cheese platter to impress yourself and your friends. This is the time for using the real fresh medjool dates, and using them like this makes a few precious dates go a long way – because they are super sweet, sticky, chewy, crunchy on the edges, and slightly salty you wont need many to get an amazing flavour and texture boost.
MEDJOOL DATE AND BROCCOLI SALAD
Pre heat oven to 180’c
- 6 – 8 Medjool dates
- 2 medium sized heads of broccoli
- 1 cup whole almonds
- Bread of choice or availability for croutons
- 2 teaspoons dry sumac
- Optional pinch of chilli flakes, or finely sliced fresh red chilli
- 1/2 red onion
- White or red wine vinegar
- Malden salt or salt crystals
- Olive oil
- Approx 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme or a teaspoon of dry thyme
- Cheese – your choice – I have used Boursin cheese today but have also used a creamy blue and feta at other times.
- Optional leaves such as spinach rocket or mesculin
Start by finely slicing your red onion into half circles into a bowl and cover with red or white wine vinegar, leave this until you are ready to serve. Drain the vinegar just before assembling the salad. These red onions are great in lots of salads – you can soak them in lemon juice or other vinegars as well and they will keep in the vinegar or lemon juice for a day or two in the refrigerator.
Next roughly chop your almonds and toss in a bowl with one teaspoon of your sumac, half the thyme, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil to coat. Put these on a lined baking sheet and place in the oven to toast – use the timer and they should take approximately 10 minutes.
In the same bowl place your fresh croutons and toss with the same mix (sumac, thyme, salt and olive oil) spread these on a tray and put in the oven to toast along side the almonds. Keep an eye on these so they don’t go over like the ones in my photos – doh!
Heat a small pan with a little olive oil over a medium to low heat. Tear your dates in half and remove the stones, then tear them into strips again and put in the pan with a good pinch of flakey sea salt. Saute carefully for a couple of minutes – not too tricky but because of the high natural sugar content they can easily burn, you just want them to warm through and get a little crunchy edge. Turn off the pan and leave the dates, until you are ready to assemble the salad.
Prepare your broccoli by cutting into bite size pieces, I will usually use all the stalk as well cutting it into rings cubes or lengths so they cook in a similar time to the florets. Toss the broccoli thoroughly in a little olive oil, optional chilli, salt, pepper and a tablespoon or two of tap water. Heat a char grill pan or barbecue and when medium hot cook your broccoli, you will probably need to do this in batches if you are using a pan. Cook quickly and try and keep it quite crunchy, the water helps it steam a little at the same time which I think helps it cook quicker and with a little less oil
Now you are ready to assemble your salad. Using a large bowl gently toss all your ingredients except the cheese together, sprinkle a splash of wine vinegar over and arrange on to a serving platter, adding your cheese as you pile it up. You can eat this warm or serve it cold later and the leftovers will be delicious the next day.