A better broccoli salad

Oct. 08, 2013 @ 11:26 AM

A friend recently described, in loving detail, a tangy-sweet broccoli salad with raisins, nuts and bacon and expressed disappointment that the salad couldn't be purchased by the pint. His reverent praise drove me to my not-exactly-organized recipe piles to see if I could find something that matched his mouth-watering description.
That's when I dug up a broccoli salad recipe that I'd clipped from a newspaper 25 or so years ago and to which I had never given a second thought.
Oddly enough it came from one of those: "Could you get the chef at such-and-such restaurant to share their recipe for ..." columns. The recipe wasn't from the same place where my friend experienced broccoli salad nirvana, but the ingredients were close.
That's the good news.
And the not-so-good news? The ingredients included mayonnaise, sugar, bacon and walnuts. Whatever health benefits the broccoli conveyed surely were overwhelmed by those calorie-dense, high-fat components.
I quickly analyzed the recipe and found that a serving of the restaurant's broccoli salad delivered 381 calories and 31 fat grams. I did the math twice to make certain that fat really contributed 72 percent of all that salad's calories.
Mayonnaise turned out to be the big "bad boy," contributing slightly more than 75 percent of the fat and more than half the calories. Since the textural and taste quality of low-fat mayonnaise has never been better, I knew I could put a major hurt on that "bad boy" by switching.
Indeed, this easy substitution allowed me to trim more than 1,200 of real mayonnaise's 1,650 calories and slash 150-plus fat grams.
But this lean guy didn't stop there.
The original recipe's half cup of sugar added 370 calories, and I figured a natural sugar substitute, such as stevia, could vanquish every one of those calories.
So far, I'd given the boot to over 150 fat grams and almost 1,600 calories.
The walnuts and bacon lent significant flavor to this salad and I wasn't about to eliminate either of them. But, I could reduce their calorie and fat impact without diminishing their valuable flavor and textural contributions.
Trimming much of the fat off the bacon strips before oven roasting them allowed me to use almost as much bacon.
I reduced the quantity of walnuts by half and used my already hot oven to roast the walnuts to a deeper brown, which boosted their flavor as my bacon cooked. Grinding the walnuts allowed me to evenly distribute the heightened flavor throughout the salad.
My calculator revealed that I'd pruned more than 175 fat grams and almost 2,000 calories. My palate told me I'd created a healthier salad that delivered everything but bad news and my friend agreed.
You gotta give this a try.

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A Better Broccoli Salad

4 thick-cut extra-lean bacon slices, trimmed of fat from the edge to where the lean begins
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) walnuts
4 cups raw broccoli florets cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup seedless raisins
Dressing
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise (2 fat grams per tablespoon)
No-calorie, natural sugar substitute equal in sweetness to 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup distilled vinegar

For the salad: Place one oven rack in highest position and the other rack in lower middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a jelly roll pan with foil and place a wire rack in the pan. Lay the trimmed bacon slices on the rack and roast 8-10 minutes per side or until golden. Drain and cool cooked bacon on paper towels. Chop into bits; set aside.
Place the nuts in a small ovenproof skillet or small, shallow baking pan and bake on the lower rack while the bacon cooks, about 4 or 5 minutes until visibly darker in color. Cool and grind in a food processor. Set aside.
Make the dressing: Add mayonnaise, artificial sweetener and distilled vinegar to a large glass or stainless steel mixing bowl (do not be concerned if it bubbles a little) and whisk until completely combined.
Add the bacon, nuts, broccoli, celery, carrots, onion and raisins to the dressing and stir and fold until coated. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or over night.
Serves eight.
Nutrition values per serving: 141 calories (51.4 percent from fat), 8.1 g fat (0.7 g saturated fat), 20.5 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 3.5 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 362 mg sodium.
LeanNote: Removing the sugar removed 370 fat-free (but nutritionally bankrupt) calories, which makes the percentage of calories from fat appear disproportionately high. Remember, on a per serving basis there's 240 fewer calories and 23 fewer fat grams.

Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at leanwizard@aol.com.