Saving Stalks: Chef Jeanne Cheng's Take on Broccoli Salad

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Compared with much-in-demand kale, broccoli, that other verdant vegetable, has long suffered a far less glamorous fate. When diners do spear their forks into the nutrient-rich green, however, typically it’s the springy crown they crave, not the squat stem. Jeanne Cheng, chef and proprietor of Kye’s in Santa Monica, knows her passion for broccoli stalks rather than florets is unusual, but she became hooked as a kid, when her Chinese mother pickled them. “She’d marinate the stems overnight and they would get crispy,” Cheng recalls. “It’s funny, because I stir-fried them for my son when he was very young, and he would cry when it was time to take the plate away. He loves the stalks just as much as I do.”

Cheng’s son Kye, who is riddled with a number of food sensitivities, is the namesake of her wholesome fast-casual restaurant, which turns out the likes of nori-wrapped burgers, collard green-sheathed bean tacos and nut butter smoothies. With an appreciation for her childhood culinary memories, Cheng was inspired to make a refreshing salad that pays homage to those underrated stalks. “Since broccoli is so hardy, I was looking for a flavor that would match it,” she explains. She ended up pairing thin, mandoline-sliced shards of the vegetable with goji berries, uncured bacon, almonds, red onions and carrots, under a blanket of creamy vinaigrette for a dish that’s decidedly “reminiscent of coleslaw,” she says. “It has a light but densely satisfying feel to it, and it’s crunchy.”

The textural salad is significant for another reason: It’s a pristine example of minimizing waste. “Broccoli stalks are precious to me. They have nutritional value, too, and should always be repurposed,” says Cheng, whose degrees in molecular biology, traditional Chinese medicine and spiritual psychology have fostered a keen understanding of the mind-body connection. “My mother always believed in food as the key to longevity,” she says. “She raised three kids as a single mom, but made us fresh meals every night. Whether beet greens or carrot tops, she never threw anything away. It’s a mindset that’s ingrained in me.”

Broccoli Stalk Salad with Goji Berries and Bacon

Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 cups cut broccoli stalks

1 cup cooked bacon, loosely chopped

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup red onions, thinly sliced

1/8 cup goji berries

1 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup grade B maple syrup

3 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Peel the broccoli stalks; cut lengthwise into thin slices using a mandoline. In a bowl, toss together the sliced broccoli stalks, bacon, shredded carrots, red onions, goji berries and almonds. In a blender, combine the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, chopped shallots, white wine vinegar, olive oil, pepper and salt until smooth. Add vinaigrette to salad and toss to coat.

Per serving: Calories 248; Fat 13 g (Saturated 2 g); Cholesterol 4 mg; Sodium 410 mg; Carbohydrate 28 g; Fiber 4 g; Sugars 17 g; Protein 8 g

Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern.