As an avid Seinfeld fan, I’ve seen the show about the “The Big Salad” several times. In the episode, Elaine asks George to purchase her “the big salad.” Later George asks Jerry, “What’s in the big salad?” Jerry replies, “Big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs.” I thought about that description when I began writing this memoir of Seven-Layer Salad. Remember that one?
A 70s Flashback
In the 70s, during the days of tall hair and leisure suits, this much-beloved salad showed up at potlucks and picnics all across the land. The colorful, crowd-pleasing salad was most often served in a glass trifle bowl. Today Seven Layer Salad has it’s own Wikipedia page, which is where I turned to find what was in the original layers. It was iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, frozen peas, hard-boiled eggs, cheddar cheese and bacon. (Hmm. . . that adds up to eight, so I suppose you can leave out one layer, if you want.) It was sure tasty. But the topping of mayo, sour cream and sugar made the salad a calorie and cholesterol guilt trip.
A Few Modifications
In the ensuing years, some modification have been made. Recently I ran onto a Broccoli Salad recipe from The Pioneer Woman, that has many of the good features of 7LS, but is a bit healthier. The cheese is gone, the mayo cut dramatically with yogurt, and the peas replaced with broccoli and carrots. Orange juice and zest replace the sugar, giving the salad both sweetness and tang. The dressing doesn’t seal the salad until you’re ready to toss; it’s added just before serving.
An updated, trimmed-down option is good to have on hand. For those who are aghast by the original recipe, that called for 1-2 cups of mayonnaise, they can relieve their anxiety by noting that this one has only 2 tablespoons and no sugar. This new-day Broccoli Salad is a hat tip to 7LS.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Blanch the broccoli for 1 minute in the boiling water. Plunge it into the ice water until completely cool and drain well.
In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, oil and orange zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, add the drained broccoli, carrots, raisins and onions. (I sometimes toss in a few pecans or sliced almonds, too.) Pour over the dressing and toss to coat. (Recipe slightly adapted from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.)