Cabbage is just the beginning when it comes to coleslaw recipes

August 04, 1993|By Faye Levy | Faye Levy,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Coleslaw was not high on my list of favorite dishes when I was growing up in Maryland. The mayonnaise dressings with heavy doses of sugar simply didn't appeal to me.

Still, as a young bride in Israel, when I was trying to learn how to cook from books, I decided to try to make this popular American salad. After all, I knew that cabbage is inexpensive and healthful.

One of the books on my shelf, the 1963 edition of "The Good Housekeeping Cookbook," had 17 different versions of coleslaw. There had to be one I would like! I skipped the standard salad with sweet and sour mayonnaise. I passed on olive coleslaw, which contained stuffed olives tossed with the cabbage and a note, "You may add 5 coarsely grated franks." Green pea slaw, in which the cabbage is mixed with canned peas and topped with canned beets, didn't tempt me either.

I'm not sure what possessed me to choose coleslaw souffle salad that contained lemon Jell-O, mayonnaise and a little vinegar. My in-laws, who were used to Middle Eastern flavors, were bewildered by the sweet, yellow, jellied mass with bits of cabbage in it. I have to admit, I didn't like it much either.

Finally a friend gave me a recipe for coleslaw dressed with a simple vinaigrette. The light, tangy oil and vinegar mixture was perfect with the vegetable. Later, I found similar cabbage salads in France. Some were garnished with fruit, which was a pleasant counterpoint to the delicately tart dressing.

Homemade coleslaw can be ready in minutes now that many markets sell shredded green and red cabbage. You can even buy prepared "coleslaw mix," which is simply shredded cabbage mixed with grated carrot.

Although pre-cut vegetables do save time, hand-shredded cabbage is fresher and is a lot quicker to prepare than you might think. A food processor is convenient for shredding large quantities of cabbage, but for coleslaw for 8 portions or less, I prefer to shred the cabbage with a knife as the pieces are longer and more attractive.

All you do is cut the cabbage in half through the core, then place a cabbage half with its cut side facing down on the cutting board. Then you simply cut the cabbage into thin slices with a large, sharp knife; each slice separates into long, thin shreds.

Whichever dressing you prefer, add just enough to lightly moisten the cabbage. For crisp coleslaw, serve it as soon as possible. If you prefer it softer, refrigerate the salad for a few hours before serving.

Light coleslaw with citrus fruit

Makes 4 or 5 servings

1/4 cup dried currants or raisins

1 quart shredded red cabbage

1 quart shredded green cabbage or coleslaw mix

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon oil

salt

freshly ground pepper

1 orange, peeled and divided into sections

1 grapefruit, peeled and divided into sections

1/4 cup pecan pieces

Rinse currants with warm water, then drain well. Place red and green cabbage in large bowl and mix in currants.

Whisk vinegar with oil and salt and pepper to taste in small bowl. Add to cabbage mixture and mix well until cabbage is evenly moistened. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Divide coleslaw among plates. Top each serving with orange and grapefruit sections and sprinkle with pecans.

Coleslaw with Malaysian peanut dressing

Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 cups shredded red cabbage

4 cups shredded green cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

Malaysian peanut dressing

1 medium cucumber, cut into thin sticks

2 or 3 hard-cooked eggs, quartered

1 cup bean sprouts

lime wedges

Mix shredded cabbage with carrots in bowl. Prepare Malaysian peanut dressing and add enough dressing, about 3/4 cup, to lightly coat vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning. Divide coleslaw among serving dishes. Serve each portion topped with cucumber sticks, egg quarters, bean sprouts and lime wedges. Serve remaining dressing separately.

Malaysian peanut dressing

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 large clove garlic

1 ( 1/4 -inch-thick) slice peeled ginger root

1 fresh Thai or other small hot chili, seeded, optional

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup hot water

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 to 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, optional

2 teaspoons strained fresh lime juice

Oriental hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste

salt

Grind garlic in mini food processor along with ginger root and chili, or finely mince with knife.

Heat oil in medium saucepan over low heat. Add garlic mixture and saute, stirring, 2 minutes. Add peanut butter, hot water, turmeric, brown sugar and anchovy paste and mix well. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until smooth, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Season to taste with hot sauce and salt. Transfer to bowl and cool. Taste and adjust seasoning.

If cooled dressing is too thick to pour, gradually stir in additional 1 or 2 tablespoons water.

Bright red cabbage coleslaw

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1/2 small red cabbage (about 1 3/4 pounds)

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon mustard

salt, freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup oil

1/3 cup chopped green onion

1 cup toasted walnut halves or pieces, optional

Cut cabbage half in two and cut out core. Shred cabbage in food processor or with large knife and place cabbage in large bowl.

Pour 1/4 cup vinegar into small saucepan and bring to boil. Pour over cabbage and toss quickly until mixed well. Whisk mustard with remaining 3 tablespoons vinegar and salt and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Whisk in oil. Add dressing gradually to cabbage, tossing.

Taste and adjust seasoning. A short time before serving, add chopped green onion to salad. Serve sprinkled with toasted walnuts.

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