A familiar side dish takes a mellow-spicy twist

Entertaining

Entertaining: Coleslaw tempts with an intriguing blend of Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

September 30, 2001|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

I enjoy trying new restaurants, especially when out of town, so when friends invited us for a weekend to their house on Cape Cod, I suggested that we eat out one of the evenings. Our hosts responded enthusiastically and chose a seaside restaurant that had opened earlier in the season. I eagerly read the menu and, intrigued by a side dish of Parmesan-Black Pepper Cole-slaw, ordered it along with roasted halibut on a bed of asparagus.

The fish and vegetables were cooked perfectly, but my slaw was unexceptional. There was not the faintest hint of cheese, and I could see no specks of black pepper anywhere. I asked the waiter if he had brought me a traditional slaw instead of the unusual one, but he replied that there was Parmesan cheese and pepper in the slaw's dressing. I wasn't convinced, but I didn't push the issue.

Back home, I couldn't get the thought of a slaw seasoned with the mellow taste of grated Parmesan cheese and bits of spicy black pepper out of my mind. It seemed like such a winning combination that I decided to try a version myself. I tossed together thin slices of cabbage and sweet red pepper with white wine vinegar, sugar, olive oil and a generous amount of freshly grated black pepper. Next, I coarsely grated a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and added that to the slaw along with small amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream. My husband and I had this delicious slaw for supper one night to accompany grilled bratwursts and sauteed onions served on toasted buns.

I couldn't wait to use this new slaw when entertaining and added it to a fall menu, which included grilled steaks, corn-on-the-cob and a plate of heirloom tomatoes. The slaw, served on a bed of dark green cabbage leaves, was the most attractive dish on the buffet table and drew the most comments. Our guests each had two servings and hinted that they would like the recipe. As I was printing copies for our friends, I was tempted to send one to that restaurant on the Cape!

Parmesan-Black Pepper Coleslaw

Makes 6 servings

medium head of cabbage (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), with attractive outer leaves

1 large red bell pepper

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 / 4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons sugar

2 1 / 4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper plus more if needed

3 / 4 teaspoon salt

one (6- to 8-ounce) piece of Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano- Reggiano, at room temperature so that it will be easy to grate

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 tablespoons sour cream

Remove 4 or 5 of the attractive outer leaves from the cabbage. Rinse and pat dry. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve the salad.

Cut head of cabbage, lengthwise, into quarters. Cut out and discard tough center core from each quarter. Slice each quarter, crosswise, into very thin strips to measure 8 cups. Place in large, nonreactive mixing bowl.

Remove and discard stem from pepper, then halve lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and cut out membranes. Slice peppers, lengthwise, into very thin strips. Cut strips into 1-inch pieces and add to bowl with cabbage.

In small mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, black pepper and salt. Pour over cabbage and peppers and toss to coat well. Marinate 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate cheese, using coarse side of hand grater or food processor to yield 1 1/2 cups. (You will probably have some cheese left over.) It is important to grate cheese coarsely, not finely, for this recipe. Whisk together mayonnaise and sour cream and add to cabbage mixture along with grated cheese. Mix well to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or longer.

Bring slaw to room temperature before serving. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Line shallow serving bowl with reserved cabbage leaves and mound slaw in center.

Note: You can substitute reduced-fat mayonnaise and sour cream for this recipe with good results. However, nonfat mayonnaise and sour cream would not work well.

Betty Rosbottom writes for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

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