Food & Drink

Anything can be coleslaw if you know what you’re doing

An Indian-style slaw could have carrots, pea pods, cabbage and jicama, garnished with shredded coconut, peanuts and cilantro.
An Indian-style slaw could have carrots, pea pods, cabbage and jicama, garnished with shredded coconut, peanuts and cilantro. Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS

No doubt you’ve been firing up the grill for several weeks now, charring yourself some luscious hunks of meat. But you’re going to need something more than flesh to satisfy your hunger pangs.

And that’s where the mighty slaw comes in.

Oh, slaw, with your tangy crunch and bumptiously high-fibered nutritional content, why don’t we take you seriously?

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?

I’d say that while all slaws are salads, not all salads are slaws. For one thing, salad ingredients can come in all shapes and sizes, but slaw ingredients generally are shredded or minced. Also, show of hands: How many of you have ordered a salad and asked for the dressing on the side? Slaws are generally dressed.

If you want to make a slaw, all you have to do is get some very fresh vegetables, render them into small bits, coat them lightly with a delicious dressing and: We have achieved slaw.

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 scallion, or scallion, edamame and bacon.

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.

Now, go make some slaw.

Caesar Slaw

Caesar slaw dressing:

4 ounces Parmesan, grated

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 ounces cider vinegar

1 ounce lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ounce anchovy paste

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons finely minced parsley


1 1/2 cups romaine lettuce, shredded

1 1/2 cups radicchio, shredded

1 1/2 cups frisee, shredded

12 ounces Caesar slaw dressing (below)

6 ounces Parmesan, grated

6 to 8 strips cooked bacon, cut in pieces

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Chill 30 minutes.

Add the lettuces and toss with the dressing. Top with the grated Parmesan, bacon and parsley. Chill before serving.

Per serving: 329 calories, 28 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 39 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 12 g protein, 942 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

Yield: 12 servings.