For every church potluck and summer barbecue that I can recall, my mother has made her famous slaw. She makes it a couple of hours or even a day ahead of time, and then hauls it to whatever fellowship hall/backyard we’re invited to in her hexagonal glass Pyrex dish, the one with the plastic lid with a return-address sticker attached to it in case it gets left behind. Everyone who eats it — my dad in particular — goes crazy for the sweet-and-salty dressing, the crunch of the butter-fried Ramen noodles, the salted sunflower seeds and the green pop of onion. It’s kind of her thing, her reliable recipe she can pull from her back pocket in a pinch to jazz up a summer supper or a funeral dinner.
I was never been a huge fan of the slaw growing up. I preferred to filch the just-fried, still-hot crispy noodles from the dish beside the oven before she mixed it into the rest of the salad, to mingle with all the dressing and vegetables.
Times have changed, and so have my tastes. Now I’m more about the veggies than the Ramen noodles, and I’m usually content to make a salad with some sort of greens base and a Dijon vinaigrette should I be required to bring one to a function. But recently, there was a period of about two weeks that were full to our social calendar’s brim, and I was inspired to recreate the slaw of my mother’s kitchen.
This is arguably a healthier version, not to one-up my mom’s recipe — but it avoids the soy sauce, the brown sugar, and anything else that makes hers so addictively delicious. The base is a simple mix of shredded cabbages and carrots, and although I found the shredding attachment on my food processor to be the best for the job, a mandoline slicer or a bag of pre-shredded slaw mix from the store will work just fine. In fact, feel free to amp up the mix with the addition of fresh cilantro, spicy micro-greens, radishes sliced into rounds or matchsticks, or a few sparing scoops of pickled ginger.
The dressing, though, much like my mom’s recipe, is what makes this salad sing. There is sweet and salty, there are savory notes and bitter splashes, and there is a hum of warmth from the spices included. Top with sesame seeds, salted sunflower seeds and some diced onion, and this dish is good to go for any picnic or potluck.
(I certainly won’t assign blame if you want to add some butter-fried noodles, although don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
3 large carrots, shredded
3 green onions, diced
1/4 c. toasted sesame seeds
1/4 c. salted sunflower seeds
For the dressing:
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp. olive oil (or for a stronger flavor, use all sesame oil)
2 Tbsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. coconut aminos
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
a few dashes of red pepper flakes
Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine shredded vegetables and toss with dressing. Sprinkle with green onions and seeds to garnish.
This would go really well with the avocado-tahini combo I urged you to try earlier this week!