An easy broccoli salad, with beans, dried cherries and a creamy basil dressing, is perfect for potlucks or picnics.
You know when there is a dish that you just can’t get out of your mind? It creeps into your consciousness when you least expect it, like when you’re in the middle of ordering a coffee at Starbucks (“I’ll have a tall nonfat salad please…I mean sunflower…I mean latte.”) Seriously, that’s how my brain works. While it may provide some amusement for those around me, my one-food-mindedness doesn’t lend itself to many productive thoughts during the day. That’s why I just have get down to business and make the darned dish that’s taking over my mind like something out of Alien. For me, these types of dishes usually involve bacon or a wedge of Brie, but this time it was a salad. A big salad, with lots of STUFF and tossed with a creamy (but healthy) dressing. But first, I had some playing to do.
Monday was President’s Day here in the United States and the kids had the day off of school. It was also one of the first days this year where it actually felt like winter was rolling through. The mountains behind our house were snow-covered and the sun was shining brightly off of the powdery blanket covering our yard.
The kids pulled on their snow pants, hats, boots and gloves and trundled outside to build the first snowman of the season. After about 10 minutes of diligent work, they beckoned me outside to help. We scooped and patted, piled and rolled, and made a lump of snow about 3 feet high. While Utah has “the best snow on earth”, that powdery stuff that makes the skiing so good also makes snowman construction a little challenging. Eventually, the boys turned to picking up large chunks of ice and smashing them on the road. It’s construction, 7- and 10-year old boy-style.
When the kids came inside to warm up and have some lunch made by dad, I took off for an hour to have lunch with some girlfriends. That’s where the obsession started. While I slurped on my tomato soup, the lady sitting next to me made her way through a salad. The most glorious salad I’d seen in a long time. Lettuce, chicken, sunflower seeds…all tossed in a creamy dressing. I couldn’t get that big salad out of my mind. So the next day I threw together my own version.
I used a base of red and green leaf lettuces and added cannellini beans, broccoli, dried cherries and sunflower seeds. For the dressing, I wanted something creamy, but I didn’t want to drench the lettuce with a high-fat version. This dressing is a mixture of fresh basil leaves, minced shallots, a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt and olive oil, all blended together to form a creamy, flavorful dressing. Mix up the ingredients however you like – replace the beans with chicken or shrimp, or add toasted almonds instead of sunflower seeds. But don’t miss out on the dressing.
I’m happy to say my obsession was satisfied…until next time.
In a blender, combine basil leaves, shallots, Greek yogurt, salt, pepper and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, toss together red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, broccoli, dried cherries, cannellini beans and sunflower seeds.
Toss with the dressing and serve.
Salad with Broccoli, Dried Cherry, White Beans, Sunflower Seeds & Creamy Basil Dressing
- 2 cups packed red leaf lettuce (bite-sized pieces)
- 2 cups packed green leaf lettuce (bite-sized pieces)
- 3 cups small broccoli florets
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dried cherries
- 1 cup canned cannellini beans rinsed
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- In a blender, combine basil leaves, shallots, Greek yogurt, salt, pepper and olive oil. Puree until smooth.
- In a large bowl, toss together lettuces, broccoli, dried cherries, cannellini beans and sunflower seeds.
- Toss with dressing. Serve.
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