The combination of crisp broccoli, dried fruit, nuts, and creamy dressing is a picnic-salad staple, but the sweetened mayonnaise dressing tends to overwhelm the dynamic flavors and textures of the other components. America’s Test Kitchen made a lush but light dressing by replacing the mayonnaise with avocado and olive oil, buzzing them in a food processor with garlic and lemon so that the flavor was clean, bright, and savory. They also added shallot and tarragon to the salad to balance out the sweet tang and rich toasty flavors of the dried fruit and nuts, respectively. Blanching and shocking the broccoli softened its raw edge, seasoned it, and brightened up its color.


    • extra-virgin olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • ½ cup dried cranberries
    • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
    • 1 shallot, sliced thin
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon


    1. Bring 1 cup water and ½ teaspoon salt to boil in large saucepan over high heat.
    2. Add broccoli stalks, then place florets on top of stalks so they sit just above water. Cover and cook until broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, fill large bowl halfway with ice and water. Drain broccoli well; transfer to ice bath; and let sit until just cool, about 2 minutes. Transfer broccoli to triple layer of paper towels and dry well. Empty and dry bowl and set aside.
    4. Process avocado, oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, pepper, and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Toss broccoli, dressing, cranberries, almonds, shallot, and tarragon in now-empty large bowl until evenly coated.
    6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Appears in Cook’s Illustrated July/August 2021, America’s Test Kitchen TV