Murphys come and Murphys go, but it seems the only rule of slaw is that it can be endlessly re-invented. Slaws are a great way to put fresh crisp tastes on your table with a minimum amount of work and a maximum amount of refreshing enjoyment. Since this current heatwave seems to have made itself at home locally, the idea of cooking with heat sounds like something less than a joyful exercise. These are the times to prepare foods that are best served room temperature or less and that offer a snappy crunch.
Originally, slaw was coleslaw or, if you were Dutch, koolsla, meaning cabbage salad. Today, slaws are being made from a wide selection of firm crisp vegetables, using apples, beets, carrots, celery root, chives, jicama, kohlrabi, radishes, scallions, snow peas, string beans and turnips to mention a few. Basically, anything you can eat raw. Lately dried fruit and nuts have been getting into the slaw act with standing ovations. The dressings too have expanded their repertoire. The traditional German coleslaw was dressed with oil and vinegar. While oil and vinegar are still frequent bases, Americans have developed a taste for slaws with mayonnaise, cream, buttermilk and/or mustard. There are many Asian slaws that add a bite of the piquant such as the Korean carrot slaw that combines coriander and cayenne or perhaps the Thai version with ginger and peanuts.
Nor are these pert new slaws any longer relegated to supporting roles. They’re being slathered onto sandwiches, laced into wraps and served up as the basis for elegant main courses, such as Fresh Crabmeat and Celeriac with Lemon-Chive Dressing which is accessible on the web site.
Notwithstanding their otherworldly appearance, kohlrabi hails from Europe where it has long been appreciated for its sweetly nutty flavor. Contrary to persistent misinformation, kohlrabi is not a root vegetable. The bulb grows under its greens but above the ground. There is no discernable taste difference between the green and the purple bulbs. The name, kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip and is a card carrying member of the cabbage family. Living up to its European heritage, kohlrabi makes a wonderful slaw playing its sweet taste off tart green apples in this week’s recipe: Kohlrabi, Apple, Snow Pea Slaw with Mint, henceforth to be known as the new “kohlslaw”. As always, it is fun to experiment with fresh from the farm combinations of flavor and texture. So go play.