Oh, slaw, with your tangy crunch and high-fibered nutritional content, why have we not feted you previously?
Now, it’s time
Sure, slaw’s origins are not in this country, but you’d still be hard-pressed to find a family barbecue in the U.S of A. without at least one bowl brimming with the stuff.
Now, of course the most common kind of slaw is of the cole-ish kind. In fact, the word “coleslaw” is simply a transliteration from the Dutch “koolsla,” which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a form of “kool-salade” or cabbage salad.
Now, when most of us think of coleslaw, we’re thinking of shredded (or chiffonade of) cabbage dressed with a creamy mayonnaise dressing. (Unless you’re from North Carolina, in which case, your cabbage might be diced and tossed with a vinegar-based dressing.)
Cabbage aside, though, if we recall that the “slaw” means “salad,” our eyes are now open to a whole world of possibilities. Anything you can make into a salad, you can make into a slaw.
If you want to make a slaw then, all you have to do is get some very fresh vegetables, render them into small bits, coat them lightly with a delicious dressing and we have achieved slaw.
One word about that “rendering into small bits” part: If you’re going to cut the ingredients by hand, julienne or small dice are nice sizes. Alternately, you can run everything over a box grater or through the shredding attachment on your food processor.
If you’re using vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, break them into the smallest florets you can manage.
Generally speaking, slaws are defined by their main ingredient or ingredients. I tend not to use more than three, only because it takes up too much space on the menu. Consider these combinations:
Broccoli, raisin and carrot
Carrot, snow pea and radish
Radish, jicama and apple
Apple, fennel and cabbage
Cabbage, carrot and scallion
Scallion, edamame and bacon
Or, you can fancy up your basic coleslaw by combining your cabbage with just about anything else.
How to dress it
Now, let’s get some ideas for dressings. All of the following are acid-based (vinegar, citrus), but they also can be stirred into mayonnaise for a creamier slaw. Also, remember that everything needs salt to taste:
▪ Asian-style 1: Equal parts soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, optional brown sugar; garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and/or wasabi paste to taste.
▪ Asian-style 2: Two parts lime juice to one part each fish sauce, brown sugar, optional peanuts or peanut butter; garlic, cilantro, mint and salt to taste.
▪ South American (think “chimichurri”): Equal parts cilantro and parsley finely chopped with garlic to taste; stir into 2-to-1 blend of extra-virgin olive oil and sherry or red wine vinegar; oregano and red pepper flakes to taste.
▪ Indian-style: Equal parts lime juice, oil, shredded coconut, peanuts and cilantro; garam masala and a pinch of turmeric to taste.
▪ North Carolina (Piedmont): Equal parts ketchup, cider vinegar and sugar; black pepper and optional hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste.
Now, go make some slaw.
Crunchy Asian Coleslaw
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup dry ramen noodles, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon white sugar, honey or agave
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 green onions, chopped
In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and spices. Set aside.
In a large salad bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, dry ramen noodles, sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
Drizzle salad with 1/2 of the dressing. Toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing as desired. Allow salad to sit for 10 minutes before serving to allow flavors to develop. Garnish with green onions. Yield: 6 servings.
Beet & Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins & Pistachios
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup. white wine vinegar
5 small or 3 medium red beets, peeled and julienned
6 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
2 bunches scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced on a diagonal
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup roasted shelled pistachios
salt and black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine raisins, fennel, red pepper flakes, orange zest, and vinegar in a small bowl. Allow the raisins to soak and plump while you julienne the beets and carrots and prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Combine beets, carrots, scallions, mint, and the raisin mixture in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss. Add oil and gently toss once more. The salad keeps well for a day or 2. Serves 6.
Strawberryplum.com, adapted from Bon Appetit
1 large head of cabbage, finely shredded
1 medium bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated or julienned
1 cup granulated sugar or as desired
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup neutral flavor vegetable oil, such as corn oil, grapeseed, safflower, peanut or canola
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
Combine shredded cabbage, chopped bell pepper and onions and the grated or julienne carrots in a large serving bowl.
Dressing: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, salt, oil, dry mustard, celery seed, pepper and vinegar and bring to a boil.
Simmer, frequently stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly, then pour over the vegetables and toss well.
Cover and refrigerate the coleslaw until thoroughly chilled.
Notes: If you like a dressing that tends to the sour side, add the sugar to the vinegar mixture last, tasting as you go until you have the sweet-sour balance desired.
12 ounces Romaine lettuce, chiffonade (shredded)
12 ounces radicchio, chiffonade
12 ounces frisee, chiffonade
12 ounces Caesar dressing
6 ounces fresh Parmesan, grated
12 ounces bacon strips, crisped
2 ounces Italian parsley, finely minced
Toss three lettuces with dressing. Serve, topped with grated Parmesan, bacon and parsley. Makes 12 servings.