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(Definitely not) for the birds: Spicy Broccoli Salad

broccoli salad

What’s the worst possible thing you could find in your kitchen? If you’re like me, your answer will probably be “a mouse”. I have a dehabilitating fear of the disgusting little things, and would probably rather deal with any number of bug infestations than see one scurrying around in my favourite room. Two days ago, though, I found myself face-to-face with something far worse. 

Sitting at my computer in the living room, I was preparing for a solo night in when a flapping sound drew my attention to the kitchen. I stuck my head around the corner and saw a pigeon sitting on the ledge outside my kitchen window, peering in. This in itself isn’t an uncommon occurrence, but his intense gaze sort of unnerved me, so I walked into the room to shoo him away. It was then that I saw what was holding his attention so: his friend, perched just so on top of my stove. 

My first instinct was to shriek loudly, which had the unfortunate consequence of scaring the pigeon (we’ll call him Pete) into flapping around the kitchen and landing on top of a cupboard. At this point I shrieked some more and ran from the room, but quickly realized that I would have to deal with this. I was home alone, after all, and I didn’t want Pete finding his way into any other room of the flat.

So I returned to the kitchen, and we surveyed each other. I’m no expert in bird behavior, but Pete seemed to display more benign disinterest than outright panic, which calmed me slightly. I figured that if I could lower the top half of the window wide enough, I might be able to convince him to fly through. This required moving much closer to him, and for some reason I felt the need to explain my actions in a slow, calm voice as I performed them, as though speaking to a nervous child. It worked though, and Pete, with a final flap of his wings (illiciting a final shriek from me) flew through the window and out over the London rooftops. Honestly- what the English have against screens, I’ll never know.

broccoli and tomato salad

Given that I didn’t have any bits of bread, leftover french fries or other pigeon fodder lying around, I can only assume that Pete was interested in my dinner: a spicy broccoli salad that I’d made earlier and was coming to room temperature on the counter. (For those of you disgusted that I would actually eat this after the fact, let me assure you that it was well-covered by plastic wrap and, to the best of my knowledge, Pete the pigeon didn’t go anywhere near it.)

The inspiration for this recipe came from a combination of sources: a comment that my friend Margaux left on last Sunday’s market post, and a recipe that I’d seen on the New York Times website more than a year ago. Margaux suggested pairing the broccoli with some sundried tomatoes and goat’s cheese, but I was intrigued by the Times’ recipe, which used a vinegar mixture to gently ”cook” the vegetable in the fridge (a bit like a ceviche) until it is tender but still crisp. 

Combining the two ideas was easy. I used a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, made slightly more exciting by the addition of garlic and chili flakes. Tossed with sunblush tomatoes (those packed in olive oil and sort of halfway to being sundried) and some crumbly cheese (I used feta but goat’s cheese would be lovely, too), it really is the most gorgeous dinner on a hot night. Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks so. (Yes Pete, I’m talking about you. You’d better pray I don’t run into you on the street.)

  • Spicy Broccoli Salad with Tomatoes and Cheese
  • serves 2
  • 1 head broccoli, washed and cut into bite-sized florets
    100g sunblush tomatoes, roughly chopped (about 1/3 cup)
    1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
    1 tsp. sea salt
    1/4 cup olive oil 
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/4 tsp. chili flakes
    50g feta or goat’s cheese  
  • 1. Put the broccoli florets and chopped tomatoes into a large bowl. Pour over the vinegar, sprinkle in the salt and toss well. Set aside.  

    2. In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 1-2 minutes.

    3. Pour the oil over the broccoli and stir to combine. Cover bowl and place in fridge for at least 2 hours, or as many as 24. Toss or stir contents every so often, to ensure the broccoli is evenly “cooked” by the oil/vinegar mixture. 

    4. About 45 minutes before you want to serve this, remove from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Just before serving, crumble in the cheese and toss well. 

9 comments

  1. Ashley says:

    Yikes to the pigeon story!! I’m so glad I have screens on the window here. Good for you for getting the pigeon out!

    This salad looks yummy. I love broccoli based salads.

  2. MH says:

    hee hee awww Pete!

  3. [...] (Definitely not) for the birds: Spicy Broccoli Salad [...]

  4. margaux says:

    My mom used to make a broccoli salad in the summer that’s similar, but she steamed the broccoli first, then let it cool. This sounds good, though!

  5. Ele says:

    Ashley- it took some doing (and courage), but I got him out. Hate the lack of screens here in the UK- it’s so weird.

    Margaux- I considered steaming the broc at first, but then I remembered the NYT recipe. It’s actually wonderful this way- the longer you leave it in the fridge, the more tender and “cooked” it becomes.

  6. Kalyn says:

    Love the sound of this! Just went right on my “to try” list.

  7. [...] on them throughout the week. The round of goat’s cheese and the broccoli are for another Spicy Broccoli Salad; I’ve got some sunblush tomatoes in the fridge that will be perfect for [...]

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