It shows up on every picnic table, summer buffet and patio party in America during the summer: Broccoli Salad. Even people—like my husband—who turn up their noses to this healthy vibrant green brassica in any other dish, will eat this salad. I believe it has something to do with the accompanying ingredients: mayonnaise—lots of it—sugar—a ton—cheese—at least a cup—bacon—no explanation necessary–and something super tangy and sweet like dried, sugared cranberries. You put enough of these ingredients on just about anything, and most people will eat it. And that is too bad, I think. Broccoli is one of our healthiest summer veggies, and it deserves a better reputation and a wider audience in a healthier format.

One of the reasons the traditional version of broccoli salad is so popular, I think, is because it achieves incredible balance by including all five of our basic tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami (which is not Japanese for “yo mama” but for “something savory”) all in a creamy, rich dressing. What’s not to love? Well, the vegetarians and vegans of the world beg to differ.

So to put just a bit more healthy balance on the summer menu, I have come up with a vegan version of this classic, and you won’t miss one bit of taste or richness, I promise. Be brave….

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So here’s why this works as a vegan dish. The vegetable selection allows for crunchy bitterness through the radishes and onions. The dressing includes several forms of sour acid and sweetness, along with that creamy texture. A bacon or umami flavor is achieved through the caramelized sweet potato and cashews. And there’s no reason to exclude those dried cranberries if they are a favorite thing. But this version of broccoli salad is incredibly healthy, flavorful, much lower in sugar and fat, and welcomes everyone to the table—vegans and carnivores alike.

Helpful Hints

bottle of Chosen Foods Avocado OilOne of the inspirations for this dish came from the New Hope Network Blogger Box: Chosen Foods Avocado Oil. It was the perfect oil for this dish: boasting a rich yet delicate flavor, this oil emulsified beautifully for a smooth and creamy dressing. Avocado oil is both healthy and versatile. Chosen Foods brand is moderately priced and readily available at most independent health food stores. I got mine at my local Green Earth Grocery, where the staff is friendly and helpful. Never underestimate the power of your consumer dollars when you support great brands and local retailers…. Just a little reminder about shopping local.

Case in point: according to their website, “Chosen Foods was founded by a well traveled Naturopathic Doctor named Carsten Hagan who discovered the powerful effect traditional foods were having in their native cultures…. His vision centered around the idea that food should nourish and sustain our bodies, our lives and our communities.” They also have a strong sense of community outreach, partnering with other organizations to bring healthy food to everyone, regardless of geography or socioeconomic means. Gosh, where have you heard those ideas before? Chosen Foods is right in line with supporting healthy, whole food diets—something, for instance,  my new friends at La Vista Farm would rally right behind.

Making ahead: While this dressing will benefit from time in the frig, you’ll need to whisk it up a bit to bring it back together.

And, I’m not kidding about watching your potato/nut mixture while it is in the oven—it can overcook and burn easily. You do want the potatoes soft with slightly crunching edges and crunchy nuts. Just keep in mind this is not time to multitask. Give this step your full attention. You can guess why I’m stressing this, right? Previous disaster creates future caution. Smile… and be brave.