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RI Archives: Food

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Recipe: Coleslaw…Yes, Coleslaw

Rural Intelligence FoodIt pains me to say it, but coleslaw is the ugly stepsister of summer fare.  Potato salads, cold or warm, always robust, carefully seasoned, seem to appear in all manner of fancy guises, but coleslaw is often ignored.  Fair enough—cabbage gets a bad rap, and coleslaw’s commercial incarnation, too sweet and sloppy with mayo, can be a murky mess—but it’s our loss.  Not only is creamy cabbage salad an authentically American dish, it takes almost no time to prepare, and adapts easily to a range of seasonings.  Slice up some cabbage (a mix of different types adds variety and texture,) add some color and broaden the flavor with carrots, onions or even apples, toss with a dressing that balances creamy and tangy with the right level of savory, and you’ve got a great complement to grilled meats or cold sandwiches.

Depending upon your menu and your taste, coleslaw can handle a turn to spice or to sweet—hence the two variations that follow. The first is my interpretation of curbito, the spicy cabbage salad that always accompanies El Savadorean pupusas.  (This delicious staple is a thick corn tortilla, stuffed with delicious combos of meat, cheese and vegetables, warmed and crisped on a griddle.  Pupusas are hard to find in this area, but worth seeking out or making at home.)  The curbito, served atop the pupusas, is a bit like Korean kimchi—it’s got the same fiery, vinegary hit—but is always served with a dollop of crema, the Latin American version of sour cream, to soften its bite.  In my version, crema is replaced with creme fraiche, and heat comes from sambal oelek, a versatile Indonesian chili paste (available locally at Guido’s) that adds just enough spice and tang. 

The second recipe is my take on a restaurant slaw I ate and loved years ago at a long-lost fish shack on the side of Southern California mountain.  Their version was mostly red cabbage, with just a hint of blue cheese in the dressing.  I’ve amped up the blue cheese a bit and added apple for a sweet note.  Though both recipes call for a mix of cabbages, in different proportions, feel free to use what you have at hand—plain old green cabbage, standing alone, will still be delicious.  These recipes are not fussy, which is exactly the point of coleslaw, and, for that matter, summer cooking.
 
Curbito (8 servings)

1/2 large (or one whole small) head green cabbage, cut in half, core removed, and sliced thinly (1/8 inch, or as close as you can get)
1/2 head Napa cabbage, sliced as above (no need to halve or core)
4 large carrots, grated (approx. 2 cups) (use either a food processor or a mandoline, according to your preference—the food processor produces a slightly softer texture)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thinly
3/4 cup cider or sherry vinegar
2 T fresh oregano leaves, chopped finely
2 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (or to taste)
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Bring a teakettle of water to the boil.

Combine the cabbages in a large, heatproof bowl, and pour the boiling water over them.  Soak for 3 minutes, and then drain in a colander over the sink.  Spin the cabbage in a salad spinner to remove as much of the remaining water as possible.

Combine the vinegar, Sambal Oelek, oregano and salt in a small bowl, and then pour over the cabbage mixture.  Toss to combine, and then add the creme fraiche. Stir thoroughly, and chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

This can be made a day ahead and held, tightly covered, in the fridge; some think it tastes even better the second day.
 
Coleslaw with Blue Cheese (8-10 servings)

1/2 large (or one whole small) head of red cabbage, cut in half, core removed, and sliced thinly (1/8 inch, or as close as you can get)
1/2 small or 1/4 large head of green cabbage, halved, cored and sliced as above
1/2 head Napa cabbage, sliced as above (no need to halve or core)
4 large carrots, grated (approx. 2 cups) (use either a food processor or a mandoline, according to your preference—the food processor produces a slightly softer texture)
2 small apples, grated as above (I like a nice crisp, sour-sweet apple, like a Gala)
1 red onion, sliced thinly
3/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 T cider vinegar
a pinch of celery salt (or more to taste)
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (use what you like:  I’ve used Stilton, which is delicious, as well as the fabulous local Ewe’s Blue)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the cabbages, carrots and apples in a large bowl.

Mix the remaining ingredients, except the blue cheese, in a small bowl, then add to the cabbage mixture and toss thoroughly.
 
Sprinkle the blue cheese over the mixture, and fold gently to combine. Taste for salt and pepper.

Chill at least 30 minutes before serving. Though this will keep a day in the fridge, it tastes best freshly made. Paige Orloff

 

 

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 08/20/08 at 03:58 AM • Permalink