Oh, slaw, with your tangy crunch and high-fibered nutritional content, why have we not feted you previously?
Slaw’s origins are not in this country, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a family barbecue in the U.S. without at least one bowl brimming with it.
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.
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. In fact, what even is the difference?
While all slaws are salads, not all salads are slaws. Salad ingredients can come in all shapes and sizes, but slaw ingredients generally are shredded or minced. And slaws generally are served with a dressing incorporated into the mix.
To make a slaw, all you have to do is get some very fresh vegetables, cut them into small bits, and coat them lightly with a delicious dressing
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. Think broccoli, raisin and carrot, or carrot, snow pea and radish, or radish, jicama and apple, or apple, fennel and cabbage, or cabbage, carrot and green onion, or green onion, edamame and bacon.
See what I’m doing? I’m just riffing on ingredients that taste good raw (except the bacon), then putting them together all crazylike. Or you can fancy up your basic coleslaw by combining your cabbage with just about anything else.
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; optional hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste.
Note: Chef Wook Kang featured this recently on the dinner menu at the Dining Room at Kendall College in Chicago.
Dressing (makes about 1 3/4 cups):
• 4 oz. Parmesan, grated
• 1 shallot, minced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 3/8 c. cider vinegar
• 1/8 c. lemon juice
• 1 c. mayonnaise
• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tbsp. hot sauce, optional
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 tsp. finely minced parsley
• 12 oz. bacon, cut into uniform pieces
• 6 c. (12 oz.) Romaine lettuce, chiffonade (shredded)
• 6 c. (12 oz.) radicchio, chiffonade (shredded)
• 6 c. (12 oz.) frisée, chiffonade (shredded)
• 6 oz. Parmesan, grated
•1 1/2 c. Italian parsley, finely minced
To make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Chill 30 minutes before using.
To make the slaw: Cook the bacon until crisp; drain and set aside.
Toss the three lettuces with about 1 1/2 cups dressing to taste. Serve topped with Parmesan, bacon and parsley.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 370 Fat 30 g Sodium 980 mg
Carbohydrates 6 g Saturated fat 9 g Total sugars 2 g
Protein 19 g Cholesterol 50 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 ½ high-fat protein, 2 fat.