Thursday, April 19, 2018
Cooking

Dress up traditional coleslaw with fruit for summer parties

There have been way too many Fourth of July gatherings where the coleslaw has been limp, soupy and utterly ignored. So often it is picked up at the grocery store deli at the last minute, a big mess of dressing with bits of cabbage shrapnel folded in.

No wonder it's the last food standing on the buffet table.

It doesn't have to be that way, especially if you make a bowl of slaw yourself with fresh ingredients, including summer's best fruit. The trick is to make it at the last minute so there's still plenty of crunch in the cabbage and the fruit hasn't released all of its juices and turned the melange into a cold soup.

Besides sturdy pineapple and apple chunks, consider mango, grapes, papaya and pitted cherries. Even dried fruits — raisins, cherries and cranberries — are a good addition. Fruit adds sweetness and flavor, plus just the right amount of pizzazz for a party dish. These particular fruits play nicely with other flavors, including puckery vinegar, creamy mayonnaise, earthy nuts and even tangy cheeses and, of course, the sturdy cabbage.

Coleslaw lends itself to endless regional tinkering. Add shredded chicken and barbecue sauce and make it Southern. Creole mustard in the dressing gives it a Cajun accent. Go Asian with sesame dressing, fresh shredded ginger and peanuts.

Like America itself, coleslaw is an immigrant's story. The Dutch who settled in New York grew cabbage in the Hudson River Valley and by the late 1700s had started making cabbage salad. The name itself reveals its Dutch roots, kool meaning cabbage and sla translating to salad. Cabbage had been eaten in ancient times in places around the world, but cabbage salad as we know it today wasn't born until mayonnaise came along, also in the 1700s.

Today, making coleslaw couldn't be much more convenient because of the availability of shredded cabbage mixes. Use them in a pinch if you must, but you'll get more flavor and crunch if you shred or thinly slice the vegetable yourself.

I've never been a fan of Carrot-Pineapple Slaw — must be bad memories from my school lunchroom days — until I tested the recipe for this story. I shredded the carrots on a handheld grater, which was a chore. I've got a food processor but chose to work out some aggressions by doing it by hand. It also tested my reflexes and attention. Watch those knuckles as you get close to the grater blades.

The sweetness of the carrots shines through in a way I'd never noticed before. I imagine it next to barbecued chicken, the sweetness playing nicely with warm, tomato-y sauce. An earthy portobello burger would also be a fine accompaniment, too.

You'll like the results even more if you whisk the sauce together yourself, rather than relying on something from a bottle. Use fresh lemon juice and plump raisins. The ingredients make all the different in this one.

Grape-Goat Cheese Slaw brings yet another spin to traditional coleslaw. Honey, which often accompanies goat and blue cheese on a platter, makes an appearance in the dressing, its sweetness seamlessly adding depth. The recipe calls for Napa cabbage, the curly, lacy counterpart to green cabbage.

I like this slaw because the dressing is olive oil based, which means there's less chance for it to go bad as it sits on the potluck table. The cabbage is roughly chopped and stays quite crunchy.

I am lucky to have several mango trees in my yard and they are quite productive this summer. To make Mango Slaw With Cashews and Mint, I need to get to them, however, before they get overripe. For this recipe, you'll want to select firm mangoes that yield slightly to the touch without feeling mushy. An overripe mango will fall apart in the salad and produce lots of unwanted liquid.

Like the Grape-Goat Cheese Slaw, it's best to mix this mango salad just before serving, stirring in the freshly sliced mint at the end. This is another slaw without mayonnaise and it has very little oil so the fat content is greatly reduced.

All slaws, and especially those with fruit, become wetter as the produce releases its juices. Resist the urge to pour on more dressing because the salad looks dry. Give it 15 minutes, stir and you'll find you've got plenty of liquid to coat the ingredients.

Remember, you want your slaw to be a star this year.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8586.

Comments
A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

BROOKSVILLEThey brought it in glass carboys, in jars, in 2-liter bottles. It stacked up at the entrance to the auditorium, some of it just slightly murky but most of it crystal clear.Water. For more than 15 years the members of Region IV Florida Sect...
Published: 04/18/18
Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Whenever I fly, I pay way too much for food. Iíve stumbled jet-lagged into fancy wine booths and nearly bankrupted myself with cheese plates. Iíve purchased granola bars that cost more than my plane ticket (okay, maybe it just felt that way). If youí...
Published: 04/18/18
Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

There are chocolate people, and there are vanilla people. I am a lemon person.Show me a dessert menu, and Iíll choose whatever is flavored with puckery lemon or any of her citrus sisters ó lime, tangerine, kumquat, yuzu. Even as a kid, I went for lem...
Published: 04/17/18
Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

As the name suggests, 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs is no substitute for the kind of meatballs simmered for hours in your nonnaís Sunday gravy. Strangely enough, the recipe doesnít even include oregano or basil or a dry Chianti. And yet I think t...
Published: 04/17/18
Re-create that fancy spa water at home

Re-create that fancy spa water at home

It was lunchtime in the middle of the workday, so although I sat at the bar at downtown St. Petersburgís Asie Pan-Asian, I opted for a water. The bartender poured a glass and I took an unknowing sip.Cucumber. It was definitely cucumber. Iím not the b...
Published: 04/17/18
Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Many years ago, I took a trip to Rome and learned enough Italian to find directions and order dinner from menus. I learned very quickly that if I didnít make it clear, I would get sparkling water rather than still water at every restaurant. My husban...
Published: 04/16/18
Hereís how to make shakshuka, the egg dish with the awesome name

Hereís how to make shakshuka, the egg dish with the awesome name

By Rick NelsonSuddenly, it seems like shakshuka is everywhere.Restaurant menus. Food Network how-to shows. YouTube videos. And on breakfast, lunch and dinner tables in homes across the country.Maybe the dishís ascendancy can be traced to cookbook aut...
Published: 04/11/18
Cooking Challenge: Making a bowl of fancy bacon-and-egg ramen at home

Cooking Challenge: Making a bowl of fancy bacon-and-egg ramen at home

My boyfriend, Ben, screws a nail into the cork of our Bread and Butter wine bottle. Iíve recently moved into my own apartment ó the first step in a fully adult life ó but apparently, Adult Me doesnít own a bottle opener. Tonight, Iím cooking my first...
Published: 04/11/18

From the food editor: Homemade biscuits make the meal

Raise your hand if you have leftover Easter ham in your freezer. Yeah, me too. Itís not every day I pick up a large cured ham at the supermarket, so when holidays come around that call for the pork centerpiece, I always try to think of at least three...
Published: 04/10/18
Spice up salmon with this tarragon vinaigrette

Spice up salmon with this tarragon vinaigrette

A good piece of fish needs very little to make it perfect. Here, the anisey-tangy flavor of tarragon vinaigrette is a wonderful complement to the lushness of salmon fillets. If you start with excellent salmon and super-fresh herbs, and donít overcook...
Published: 04/10/18