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3 broccoli salads that'll brighten up any summer spread

There are three main modes that work great for any broccoli salad: blanched, broiled and raw.
Whether you want something creamy, tangy or charred, we've got a broccoli salad for you.
Whether you want something creamy, tangy or charred, we've got a broccoli salad for you.TODAY Illustration / Ali Rosen

Broccoli salad is a summer secret weapon. It can be served at any temperature, it is hearty without being heavy and it can take on almost any flavor. You can make one that is creamy and decadent or one that is perfect for the keto or vegan friend at your dinner party. You can combine it with pasta salads or eat it on its own.

So, where do we even begin when we have a bulk of broccoli at our disposal? It starts with deciding how to handle the broccoli itself. There are three main modes that work great for any broccoli salad. The simplest is blanching: Take your broccoli, cut it down into florets and cook it in a pot of boiling water for three to four minutes and then drain it. It will still have a bit of crunch but will be a blank canvas for any salad.

Blanch your broccoli for the simplest take on broccoli salad.Ali Rosen

If you want to add a bit of char into the mix, then broccoli also does great when it is broiled. Put florets of broccoli on a sheet tray lined with aluminum foil and stick it close under the broiler for three to five minutes, until it has softened a bit and is getting a nice subtle singe.

Broil your broccoli if you want to add a bit of char to your salad.Ali Rosen

And if you want to try broccoli at its most vegetal and refreshing, then go for it raw by turning it into a slaw — just make sure to get it into small enough pieces so it becomes a bit more manageable. I like the extra-thin texture of grating, but you can also throw it in the food processor to make it easier on yourself.

Grate your broccoli raw for the most refreshing salad.Ali Rosen

When it comes to flavors, the possibilities are endless. Broccoli has a hint of bitterness that goes along with its earthy flavor, so typically it pairs best with some combination of acidity along with a hint of creaminess. But you don’t have to go with the standard mayonnaise and lemon dressing with a bit of bacon to make your salad pop (although the classic never hurt anyone). So, we rounded up a few of our favorite ideas to showcase the versatility of broccoli salad:

This is a twist on those classic mayo-based broccoli salads, except every element is amped up. Quick-pickled shallots add a tang, Gorgonzola gives a hit of flavorful creaminess and salami inserts the meaty element without forcing you to fry up some bacon. It's a win-win whichever way you slice your broccoli.

When it's hot outside and you don't want to turn on your stove, this light, bright salad is the perfect antidote. Use a grater or your food processor to get the broccoli as small as possible, then combine with the fresh zing of lemon and the brininess of feta to get the perfect summer slaw.

A bit of smoky char from broiling your broccoli blends perfectly with miso and soy. This salad is given a burst of sweetness by the peaches. Bok choy adds a crunchy texture, and the salty, sweet, crunchy combination is absolutely wonderful.