The vegetable sides at burger joints often are afterthoughts. Not so at Brooks Headley’s Superiority Burger in New York. Here, a humble charred broccoli salad gets as much attention as his ever-rotating lineup of meat-free burgers—or maybe more. When we tasted it, we understood why.
Dressed in a tangy coriander vinaigrette, smoky eggplant puree and a scattering of chopped chilies and candied cashews, the dish is one of the few constants on the menu. “This was our first salad,” Headley wrote in his restaurant’s eponymously named “Superiority Burger” cookbook. “It’s on the main menu and never leaves.”
What sets the dish apart is Headley’s attention to texture as much as flavor. Where many similar dishes tend to be monotone, his salad—which began as a riff on a Thai green papaya salad—is built on layers of crunchy, sweet, savory, salty and spicy.
Headley chars the broccoli to sweeten the otherwise bitter cruciferous vegetable, caramelizing the florets and providing the perfect foil for a tangy vinaigrette. But while the salad is clearly a winner at Superiority Burger (where its many components can be assembled in advance), we knew we needed to make this particular fast-food dish even faster for the home cook.
Our goal was to reduce the prep work and ingredient list without sacrificing depth of flavor. And we were pleased to find that scaling back this recipe to just a few high-impact ingredients made its big, bold flavors shine all the more.
We started with the charring. Though Headley uses a cast-iron skillet, we found it easier to use a rimmed baking sheet that had been heated in a 500°F oven. In just about 20 minutes—and with no stirring—the broccoli emerges crisp-tender and deeply charred, which brings out the vegetable’s sweetness.
We skipped the eggplant puree and the candied cashews; they are delicious but a bit impractical for the home cook. Instead, we focused on the coriander dressing. We toasted crushed coriander seeds until almost smoking. This helped quickly infuse the vinaigrette, which is built from just rice vinegar, sugar and fresh chilies. The char-roasted vegetables contrast beautifully with the brightness of the dressing. Clearly a menu mainstay.