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Slaws - the single's secret weapon

Though I've seen plenty of ideas and recipes for slaws on CH, I can't find any mention of how useful they are in the everyday food repertoire, particularly if you are rushed at mealtimes, and/or cook for only one or two. I do make standard coleslaw now and then, and I love cabbage, but I usually have it in other ways. Any vegetable that is reasonably firm, and can be eaten raw, can be used in slaw. I just heard about TJ's new Cruciferous Crunch Collection and will get some for my next slawmaking endeavor.

I am partial to just water, white or rice vinegar, sweetener (Splenda for me), and Trader Joe's salt-free 21 Seasoning Salute as the dressing. I don't add salt, or water, until the raw vegetables have marinated for at least a few hours, because enough water is usually exuded from the vegetables that the vinegar needs no further dilution, and I don't usually think it needs salt. If I have bottled storebought dressing, like honey mustard or poppyseed, on hand I sometimes add a bit in afterwards, but little enough that the liquid is still watery. No oil or mayo needed. Often, cooked beans are included. Sometimes a few raisins or thin-sliced grapes, or julienned apple, pear, or melon. Using a mandolin with a julienne blade and a fine slicer, I can prep 8 cups of shreds in under 30 minutes. Once the slaw is in the fridge, there's no further work needed.

If you have a problem using up a cucumber or a whole bunch of celery before they go soft, a slaw is your friend. The vinegar will preserve the shredded vegetables. A big batch can last me 3 weeks or more and while they get softer over time, they do not spoil. Soupmaking is a way to use leftovers from cooked food, and odds and ends of raw vegetables. But if it's too hot to cook, or you've already stocked your freezer with homemade soup, slaw allows you to salvage rather than discard small amounts of raw vegetables and herbs.

Drained slaw is a nice change-of-pace from lettuce and tomato on a sandwich, can go into meatloaf/meatball mix, and either take the place of, or top, a green salad. It can be a stand-alone vegetable side. If you've run out of time or ideas, and come home with pizza or drive-thru fare, accompanying it with a dish of slaw not only adds nutritional value but slows digestion down enough to forestall further hunger, and helps combat blood sugar spike and crash.

Finally, slaws are colorful and pretty, and can help satisfy the urge to crunch without resorting to lubberwort.

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  1. Good ideas here. So do you make a distinction between slaw and a vegetable salad?

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      To me, slaw implies shredding/julienning, whereas a vegetable salad could be slices, dices, or chunks, which might not be permeated as well by the vinegar.

      I first began liking slaws on sandwiches after my first banh mi, with its slaw of julienned carrot and daikon. Less potential for dripping than a topping made of larger vegetable pieces, don't you think?

      1. re: greygarious

        I was just thinking of the beans, raisins, celery, etc.

        Btw, we were served a slaw the other day that had no mayo and a little sesame oil along with whatever else they used to dress it. Liked.

        1. re: c oliver

          Sesame oil is great. Lime juice is good, too. Green onions. Cilantro. Yum.

    2. I often make slaws but i haven't ever let them sit with just vinegar before....hmmm. Does that just serve to tenderize the veggies? I make massaged kale salads often and that gets much more tender.

      I love my oxo mandoline and just the other day shredded the random beet, carrots, chunk of apple, celery and radishes into a great lunch with vinegrette and a few meatless balls.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Ttrockwood

        My favorite semi-Americanized Chinese restaurant automatically serves a plate of cukes and carrots dressed with sweetened rice vinegar when a party sits down at the table during dinner hours. That, and the banh mi slaw, made me realize that while there's nothing wrong with a vinaigrette or mayo-based dressing, oil is not essential to a tasty slaw.

        1. re: greygarious

          1 1/2 C finely shredded daikon
          2 med. carrots finely shredded
          4 japanese mint (shiso) leaves rolled and cut into very thin strips
          1 T finely chopped lemon rind
          1 t black sesame seeds
          1/3 C sushi vinegar
          Place daikon and carrot in separate bowls of ice water for ten minutes. Let stand then drain well.
          Gently toss daikon and carrot to combine.
          Put into individual small salad bowls. Sprinkle with the lemon rind/sesame seeds and mint leaves.
          Sprinkle lightly with the sushi vinegar and serve as a starter.

          1. re: Puffin3

            Yum!! Running out for more vinegar now.....

            1. re: Puffin3

              Thanks for sharing this recipe. I have tons of daikon from my CSA, now I know just how I'm going to use it!

              1. re: pagesinthesun

                Once cut and packed away in the fridge, daikon can smell strongly when the container is opened. Fear not - it's still tasty, and the odor dissipates in a moment.

            2. re: greygarious

              I'll be making this asap, i've always used a basic vinegrette (no mayo- bleh) but that may change very soon.....!

            3. re: Ttrockwood

              Yes, I prefer mine fresh and crunchy so I always mix just before serving and I try and not make more than will be eaten at that meal for the same reason.

            4. The Elephant Walk Resataurant's Salade Cambodgienne

              I love this salad at their restaurant and when I bought their cookbook, I started making it at home. It's a perfect summer salad. I make it almost once a week.

              Make the dressing according to their recipe, although you might want to sub part of the fish sauce with low sodium soy sauce. I usually use 2 parts fish sauce and 1 part soy. I also omit the shallot if I don't have any on hand. Also, you will probably not need the salt, so taste before you add it.


              1/4cup water
              1/2cup sugar
              1clove garlic, finely chopped
              1small shallot, finely chopped
              1/2cup Asian fish sauce
              2tablespoons lime juice
              2teaspoons salt.

              1. In a small saucepan bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and cook over low heat, stirring, just until it dissolves; set aside to cool.
              2. Stir in the garlic and shallot and cook 30 minutes more.
              3. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and salt. Mix well and set aside."

              I shred some green and red cabbage and cukes and then add in whatever I feel like from this general list of goodies: shredded chicken, chopped shrimp, pressed tofu, shredded daikon or red radish, bean sprouts, julienned snow peas, red onion, scallion, cilantro, watercress, mint, thai basil, bird peppers or jalepenos, bean thread or rice noodles.

              Put the goodies in a bowl, combine with dressing (amount to your taste) and let chill. It usually only stays crisp for a day or two.

              It can be served as a slaw/ salad or used as a filling for fresh spring rolls.

              2 Replies
              1. re: C. Hamster

                is the 1/2 cup of fish sauce a typo? That seems like an awful lot.

              2. I love slaw. I like to marinate the sliced cabbage in cider vinegar for an hour or so, then drain, rinse, and dress with a mustardy oil and vinegar dressing.

                Another popular slaw at my house is one to go with tacos. Shred cabbage and mix with red onion, jalapeno, lime juice, carrot, and cilantro.

                1. I've often made an Italian version with cabbage, bell peppers, carrot using an oil and vinegar dressing.

                  1. I mix broccoli slaw w/poppy seed dressing and get credit for being a "genius"

                    1. Interesting Idea - I make slaw often - am partial to the southern-style vinegary sweet/sour slaws. Never used them to preserve bits of extra veg but will keep in mind as it is a problem I run into often enough.

                      1. Thai/Vietnamese-ish: Dress cabbage and whatever w/ lime juice, fish sauce, whatever you use to sweeten with (just a dab) and maybe red pepper. Toasted sesame oil or not at your pleasure.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lemons

                          thai chile jam is a nice funky addition to fish sauce

                        2. I like to make pepper hash... sorta slaw. Shredded cabbage & bell peppers in a sweet/sour brine... vinegar & sugar, celery seed, etc.

                          Also like pplain old cole slaw with a creamy mayo dressing... a little sugar, vinegar & celery seed.

                          1. Have you tried making freezer slaw? It's shredded cabbage, peppers, onions, etc., with a hot vinegar/sugar dressing, stored in the freezer.

                            I usually make a few batches in the fall and throw in the freezer -- it can be eaten partially or completely thawed and keeps forever. Freeze in meal-sized batches and you always have nice crunchy addition to a meal.

                            I use my grandma's old wooden slaw cutter to shred, and I enjoy feeling a little nostalgic -- she made gallons of sauerkraut every fall.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: DebinIndiana

                              I freeze leftover regular coleslaw for inclusion in frikadellen and meatloaf but it is certainly not crunchy once thawed, since freezing ruptures the cell walls of the vegetables.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                Seems crunchy to me -- the way dill pickles are crunchy. Definitely not like frozen veggies that have not been pickled.

                            2. Great post, grey! Inspiring.

                              A historical note (couldn't resist): North America has the word "coleslaw" as an English adaptation of a casual Dutch term meaning literally, cabbage salad. So by origin, "slaw" really just means salad. Albeit it has come in practice to imply shredding.

                              1. For a person cooking for himself alone, the pre-shredded slaw cabbage that comes in a plastic bag makes a fine base for a stir-fry. You can add anything to it and: there's dinner.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Querencia

                                  I have a recipe for "mu shu in moments" and calls for the pre-shredded slaw. This reminded me that I haven't made it in a while.

                                  1. re: valerie

                                    Will you share your recipe? Thanks!

                                    1. re: geminigirl

                                      Sure...it says rotisserie chicken you can use whatever chicken you want.

                                      Mu Shu in Moments

                                      ¼ peanut or vegetable oil
                                      2 large eggs, beaten
                                      2 tsp grated fresh ginger
                                      1 garlic clove, finely chopped
                                      ¼ tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
                                      1 16-oz bag coleslaw
                                      ¼ c water
                                      2 T soy sauce
                                      1 tsp sesame oil
                                      3 T hoisin sauce
                                      1 bunch scallions, coarsely chopped (set aside a few for topping pancakes)
                                      8 (6-inch) flour tortillas NOT lowfat ones
                                      2-1/2 – 3 c shredded rotisserie chicken, without skin
                                      Extra hoisin sauce for spreading on pancakes

                                      Heat 1 T oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking.

                                      Cook eggs, stirring until cooked through.

                                      Transfer eggs to a plate and add remaining 3 T oil to skillet.

                                      Cook ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute.

                                      Add coleslaw mix and 2 T water and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until coleslaw is wilted, about 5 minutes.

                                      Stir together soy sauce, sesame oil, remaining 2 T water, and hoison sauce in a small bowl.

                                      Add to coleslaw mixture along with scallions and eggs and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

                                      Toss in chicken and remove from heat.

                                      Immediately put tortillas between 2 dampened paper towels and microwave 1 minute.

                                      To assemble, spread hoisin on each tortilla and top with mu shu mixture and scallions, then roll up.

                                      1. re: valerie

                                        I ADORE mu shu. This will become a staple, thank you.

                                        1. re: valerie

                                          Thanks! This looks very approachable! Can't wait to give it a try!

                                  2. My mother makes a cabbage slaw with a red wine vinegar dressing. She adds chopped green/pimento olives, pickles, red bell pepper (also the typical carrots and celery). IT IS DELICIOUS!