Coleslaw’s revival has been sudden and powerful. The sugary, gelatinous mess handed to you in styrofoam at KFC, slopped on paper plates at picnic tables as a “veggie” to accompany BBQ, or found in metal containers at buffets all over the US is now being challenged by the flavorful variety of homemade recipes in kitchens and restaurants alike. Join us. Take back coleslaw. Dare to eat it in the fall, or even the winter (ooooooo). If you’ve already mastered your own, send me links.
Until a couple years ago, I had relegated coleslaw to salad’s sleazy second cousin who lives in Grandma’s basement and only comes out when the family goes for all-you-can-eats. Suddenly, though, I began finding it at good restaurants, next to someone’s sliced pork, or all neat and showy in a cup beside a lobster roll. Matt admitted while we were in the Cape this summer he didn’t like coleslaw. I don’t allow for food discrimination. Distaste for terrible reproductions of it, sure. Coleslaw needed to be redeemed. So I looked on Smitten Kitchen, and found Deb’s recipes and NPR article.
We made coleslaw. It was sweet, a little spicy, with a hell of a lot of flavor and crunch. It had a nice licorice tone from the tarragon, some nuts thrown in, and the tartness of apples. There was mayo, but homemade. I have since embellished the recipe (I will leave it it to Deb for simple ingredients, but I felt the flavor lacking). OH, does it rule. On our recent trip to a pick your own, we got two gorgeous cabbages, and I knew coleslaw needed to be made one last time before it gets really cold.
Coleslaw’s history is said to date back to the Romans. The first known recipes come from the Dutch’s koolsla, cabbage salad (from the French salade). The Dutch presumably brought their koolsla to New Amsterdam and passed it off to the English, who preferred it cold and called it cold slaw (1794), then opted for the Old English word cole (from the distant Latin caulis). Finally, two words became one, and we have today’s coleslaw, popular across America and the English speaking world.
The dish has gone through a similar evolution, originally using vinegar as a means to preserve cabbage through the winter up north (much as we pickle today). Variants of this dish are still very common, but should not be confused with the German sauerkraut, which as its name suggests is a sour cabbage, fermented with lactic acid bacteria to give it a long shelf life. Typical of Americans, we managed to turn the dish completely white with the introduction of mayonnaise, which was soon replaced with the sugary processed Miracle Whip, and variants of low-fat this and that (shudder the thought).
Cabbage also has numerous nutritive qualities, most notably due to it abundant sulfur content. According to Eastern medicine sulfur is warming, destroys parasites, purifies the blood, and is used as a cure for constipation and to add moisture to the digestive tract. It’s also known to be good for the skin. In addition to sulfur, cabbage is a good source of iodine (good for your thyroid) and is rich in Vitamin C.
Green and purple coleslaw with apples, currants, almonds, carrots, and onion in a tarragon-dill-mayo dressing
1 purple cabbage, outer layers removed
1 small green curly cabbage, outer layers removed
1 red onion, peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly
2 tart apples, peeled, quartered lengthwise, sliced thinly and coated in lemon juice to prevent oxidation
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup currants, plumped in hot water and rinsed
1/2 cup almonds, roasted at 325 for 15-20 minutes, and coarsely chopped
Cut the cabbages in half lengthwise. Remove the core with a parring knife. Half again. Remove any large ribs. Slice thinly. Place in a large bowl with the other dry ingredients. Dump water out from the currants and add them in.
2 egg yolks at room temperature
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup oil (canola or peanut)
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
Place the yolks Dijon, a pinch of salt and a few turns of pepper into a medium bowl. Whisk with a ball whisk. Begin pouring the vinegar slowly in a steady stream, and continue whisking. Once the mayonnaise starts to thicken, increase the stream until all the vinegar is incorporated. Whisk for 30 more seconds. Add in the vinegar and check for salt and pepper. Whisk again. Add in the remainder of the dressing ingredients, continuing to whisk. Check and adjust salt and pepper seasoning.
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoon shallots
2 tablespoon raw sugar ground
1 dill sprig, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon hungarian paprika
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 sprigs tarragon, minced
Add the dressing to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours before eating. If possible, wait overnight. Serve with some damn good sausage and enjoy.