We are in the shoulder season of spring. It is not quite warm enough to languidly lay in the sun eating raw salads and taking delicate sips of mint julep, nor does it seem quite right to be hunkering down to a marathon of baked macaroni and cheese and beef brisket, slathering on an extra layer of fat to one’s love handles in an attempt to become immune to winter’s icy grip. As time tentatively stumbles its way along, some days are warmer, some days are cooler, and the perennial question of what to eat is forever present.
About a year ago we made our first (and hopefully not our last) pilgrimage to New York City – and as I have been recalling the lovely moments spent sipping coffee and wandering its streets, I remembered a particularly delightful raw broccoli salad I had for lunch at a cafe in Jersey City one rainy afternoon. There was some sort of dried fruit I think, a mayonnaise-based dressing, and of course, crunchy bits of broccoli. It also reminded me of another favourite salad I used to get at the cafeteria at the university of my youth: raw broccoli, grated cheddar, bacon, mayonnaise. Decadent and yet somehow a little austere; the unforgiving bitterness of the raw cruciferae cuts through the sweet and creamy comfort of eggs and oil whipped to submission.
It is another rainy afternoon, and I am at home – so instead of hopping on a plane, I am transporting myself via palate, with a broccoli salad of my own: dried cranberries in Jersey’s honour, and with no bacon, chicken breast will have to do this time. Of course, there is mayonnaise to bring it all together, and to keep my spirit calm and collected while waiting for definitively warmer weather.
makes enough for 2 as a main, 4 as a side
1 broccoli crown
1 chicken breast, cooked
1 handful dried cranberries
1 lemon’s zest
juice of half a lemon
a few heaping spoonfuls of mayonnaise
Chop up the broccoli into small, uniform pieces. I like to go small enough that it is manageable for my mouth to wrap around a floret (nothing is worse than having half a floret hang out your mouth while you attempt to chomp through) but not so small that there is no satisfyingly long period of crunching during its consumption. Dice the chicken into similar sized pieces. Throw in a handful of dried cranberries, the finely grated zest of one lemon, and the juice of one of its halves. Plop a few generous blobs of mayonnaise over, and mix until everything looks well moisturized by the mayonnaise. Eat on its own, or with a good hearty sandwich of your choice. A side of iced tea if it’s sunny, or perhaps a dessert of hot chocolate later if it’s rainy.