We are fortunate enough to live in a state that has the salad bar restaurant, "Sweet Tomatoes" (aka "Soup Plantation" in some states). There, they have this magnificent salad known as "Joan's Broccoli Madness" that is comprised of crunchy, raw broccoli studded with raisins, bacon and cashews all tossed in a creamy dressing. I will tell you in all honesty (and this is coming from a true vegetable-loving person) this is one of the very few ways I'll even eat raw broccoli. It's so good. My husband and I like it so much that he and I ate the entire batch in one sitting and because it's a lightened version, didn't feel too guilty. This recipe is a great addition to showers (I think I first tried a version of this salad at my sweet friend, Helen's classy, Southern-style, Bridal luncheon and it forever holds a dear place in my heart because of it), cook outs and pot lucks. Getting your serving of veggies never tasted so good.
Broccoli Madness Salad
1 pound raw broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cashew pieces or sunflower seeds (for a just as delicious, more budget-friendly option)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2-3/4 cup extra crispy bacon pieces
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
In a large bowl, toss together broccoli florets, raisins, cashews and red onion. Reserve bacon pieces until after adding dressing so that they stay crispy (I can't stand wiggly bacon, yuck!). Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Add milk, as needed, until it reaches a thick, pourable consistency. Season to taste with pepper, garlic powder and any additional sugar or vinegar, if needed. Pour over broccoli mixture, tossing to combine. Add bacon pieces and allow salad to sit for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
Variation: substitute 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries (Craisins) for raisins. I have also heard of adding shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the mix but I guess I'm a purist and leave it out, but feel free to add it to the party if you feel so inclined!
Inspired by Joan's Broccoli Madness Salad by Sweet Tomatoes restaurant