Kathleen Purvis

Coleslaw mix gets you halfway to easy dinners

When you’re trying to grab a couple of things to throw together a fast dinner, there’s one bag that will keep you in the five-items-or-less line: A bag of coleslaw mix.

Just grab one bag and you save a whole lot of chopping time, too. The three-color deli style comes with red and green cabbage and carrots, shredded and ready to go.

What do you do with it? I started riffing with a bag (actually, I ran through a couple of bags) and came up with four easy dishes, all in a sort-of Asian theme:

1. Asian chicken wraps. After Jane Snow, a food writer in Ohio, showed me this one, it stayed in my meal rotation when I had a school-age kid in the house. All you need is a few flour tortillas, a bottle of hoisin sauce and leftovers of anything – rotisserie chicken, leftover grilled anything, even fried tofu. Saute a few handfuls of coleslaw mix, stir in the meat or chicken, add a good squirt of hoisin. Wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel, warm them in a microwave for about 1 minute, just until they’re soft. Fill, roll and it’s instant moo shu chicken.

2. Ramen salad. Versions of this are all over the Internet. Beat a bag of ramen noodles to crunch them up, spread them on a baking sheet and add sliced almonds. Bake them for 10 minutes or so in a 350-degree oven, just until they start to brown. Make a dressing of 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar and about 1 teaspoon from the ramen flavoring packet. Add the toasted noodles and almonds with about half of a 14-ounce bag of coleslaw mix, toss well and serve. The noodles lose their crunch, but you can refrigerate the leftovers for a couple of days.

3. Thai peanut salad with shrimp. Whisk together 1/2 cup canned light coconut milk, 2 tablespoons peanut butter (I use all-natural creamy, but crunchy works), 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and a teaspoon each of soy sauce and sriracha. Toss with the coleslaw mix. Add a little minced cilantro and green onion if you have them. Stir in some cold, cooked shrimp.

4. Cabbage fritters. Cover 2 or 3 cups of coleslaw mix with hot water and let it stand for 10 minutes. Whisk together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 teaspoons honey and 1 cup of self-rising flour (or all-purpose with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt). Drain the slaw well, then stir it into the batter. Heat 1 tablespoon each vegetable oil and butter. Fry the fritters on both sides until brown. (If the batter runs at first, just nudge it back together with the edge of a spatula.) Serve with ranch dressing or yogurt with srirachi stirred in.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis