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Salad shouldn't be an obligation or an afterthought -- and it doesn't always have to be kale, either. Every other Thursday, Elizabeth Stark from Brooklyn Supper will help you make salads you actually want to eat.
Today: The season of bitter vegetables is finally over. Celebrate with spring broccoli sweetened by morning frost.
Food writers talk about vegetables like they're a stable thing, but the truth is that good fresh food is a moving target -- it's a bit different every time you use it. We cooks have to taste our way through the Greenmarket or produce aisle (surreptitiously, of course) because depending on season, sunlight, climate, and growing conditions, kale or broccoli or Bibb lettuce can be bitter or sweet, chewy or limp, sublime or forgettable.
The season of bitter, chewy vegetables has now reached its end. Spring vegetables, especially cool weather-loving brassicas, are sweet and tender. One of my favorite springtime treats (before the really good stuff arrives, anyway) are the tiny broccoli tops that dot farmers markets in March and April. These aren't the mass-produced, woody things -- these are the very first shoots made sweet by the still frosty air. They're a little hard to get a hold of: To get some, you'll likely have to find a broccoli farmer and butter him or her up. If you can't track down broccoli tops (not every region has a bustling farmers market in March), broccolini -- a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale -- will do nicely.
This salad plays beautifully to spring's first ingredients, with the light, lemony aioli dressing bringing out the sweetness of caramelized shallots, roasted red onions, and broccoli.
More: Not over bitter foods just yet? Make this Burnt Toast Soup (with a side of broccoli rabe, of course).
For the aioli:
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
For the salad:
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 large shallots
1 pound young broccoli crowns or broccolini, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch florets
2 red onions
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Photos by Elizabeth Stark