There's no point in mincing words: eating healthy in the South is difficult, regardless of how you define "healthy". When I moved to Georgia in 2001, I was a vegetarian and was shocked to discover that the seemingly safe-to-my-lifestyle "veggie plate" was comprised almost entirely of veggies which had been cooked with some kind of animal fat!
I find myself in a similar conundrum lately as I settle in to a Paleo lifestyle. This time, it isn't the animal fat that bothers me, though. Rather, it is the hidden carbs (must we bread everything?), incessant sweetening (you've heard of Sweet Tea, right?), and cheesy-creaminess of a huge majority of traditional Southern dishes. Couple that with the inescapable family clan dynamic that still exists (it's like peer pressure, only worse), and it's starts to feel impossible to navigate the food table at the innumerable barbecues, holiday celebrations, and family reunions.
Enter my summer savoir: broccoli salad. Broccoli salad is one of Daddy M's favorite traditional dishes. I developed his perfect broccoli salad in time for his 30th birthday party and it has become my go-to take-along to every summer gathering we host or attend (usually I get conned into making a second batch to hide in the fridge for Daddy M to snack on during the following week because we never, ever bring home leftovers). My challenge at Fourth of July was creating a Paleo version to match the popularity of the original.
Thankfully, this was already a no-grain, no dairy recipe. I substituted homemade Paleo mayo for the traditional Kraft mayo in the original recipe and palm sugar to replace the refined sugar. I served both versions (labeled) side-by-side on the Fourth and the resounding verdict was that they tasted exactly the same! Victory!
Broccoli salad is a great accompaniment to hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill or, as I discovered with some precious leftovers, chicken thighs (the ones in the photo are the amazing Honey Mustard Thighs from The Paleo Kitchen cookbook, as shared on Nom Nom Paleo). A few forkfuls are also delightful with a boiled egg for breakfast on the fly.
- 1 cup Paleo mayo
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- Scant 1/4 cup palm sugar
- 1 head of broccoli or even better, 1 bag of broccoli florets, trimmed to bite-sized pieces
- 8 pieces of bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup green onions (white and green parts), chopped - this usually works out to be two whole green onions
- 1/4 cup pecan pieces, chopped (it honestly doesn't matter if they're toasted - being in the dressing will soften them again; if you're desperate for crunchy pecans, use toasted and add just before serving)
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together mayo, vinegar and sugar. Stir in the broccoli and toss to coat. Gently stir in bacon, raisins, onions and pecans. Yep, it's that easy.
This is best made the night before or first thing in the morning if you will be serving in the afternoon or evening to give the flavors a chance to get to know each other before you devour them. You will want to give the whole salad a good stir again just before serving - because the palm sugar doesn't dissolve in the mayo as well as the white sugar, the dressing remains a little runny and tends to settle at the bottom.
What's your go-to summer recipe for gatherings?