pickled coleslaw

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Salads can be tricky, because if I’m eating a big bowl of vegetables, it better be healthy, you know? But there’s the whole salad dressing issue. Vinaigrette is the standard lighter option, but even it’s usually based on olive oil.

Coleslaw is no exception to the salad dressing problem. Many coleslaws are simply cabbage, mayonnaise and seasoning. Not only is this a little plain for my taste, but it turns coleslaw into a full-on indulgence. Even my favorite buttermilk coleslaw recipe includes a bit of mayonnaise and sour cream (which could probably be replaced by plain yogurt), although the base of the dressing is lowfat buttermilk.

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A lot of people don’t even like creamy coleslaws, preferring vinegar-based slaws instead. I like both types, and at first I thought these vinegar dressings were the no-fat answer for coleslaw, until I found out that most involve oil, like a typical vinaigrette does.

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The solution, it turns out, is pickled coleslaw. The cabbage here is mixed with nothing but vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Those ingredients have to be heated to dissolve the sugar, then cooled so they don’t wilt the cabbage. Then they’re mixed with the shredded cabbage and a few other vegetables (sadly, I didn’t have a cucumber around when I made this, so I had to skip it), and refrigerated overnight – or for longer, if need be.

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What a great way to eat a big bowl of vegetables. Since I’m not worried by a wee bit of sugar, there’s nothing for me to feel guilty about here. And it isn’t just about being healthy – it tastes great too. It’s tart without being too sour and has a wonderful crunch. Even Dave, pickle-hater that he is, enjoyed it. Gotta love a salad without compromise.

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One year ago: Mashed Potatoes with Kale

Pickled Coleslaw (from Deb Perelman for NPR)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1½ cups distilled white vinegar
1½ cups water
⅓ (2.33 ounces) cup sugar
2½ tablespoons kosher salt

1 small head green cabbage
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 kirby cucumber, thinly sliced

Bring brine ingredients to a boil in a 2-quart nonreactive saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Use a pan of stainless steel, glass and enameled cast iron; avoid pure aluminum and uncoated iron, which can impart an unpleasant taste to recipes with acidic ingredients) Transfer to a 3- to 4-quart nonreactive bowl and cool completely. To speed this process up, you can set the bowl over a second bowl of ice water, and stir, which will quickly chill the brine.

Halve, core and halve again the head of cabbage, then finely slice it with a knife, or run the quarters through a food processor fitted with a slicing blade.

Toss sliced cabbage, bell pepper, carrot and cucumber in bowl with brine. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate, tossing the ingredients once or twice in a 24-hour period. After one day in the brine, the coleslaw is ready to serve. It keeps for up to 1 week, chilled.

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  1. I did not know half of that information about coleslaw! I personally am not a fan, buy my husband loves it, and now I know which types are better for him! Thanks so much 😉

  2. My slaw recipe is similar to yours. We enjoy it very much. This looks delicious.

  3. Oh wonderful!!

  4. Katie says:

    Have you ever tried North Carolina Style coleslaw? You use cider vinegar, celery seed, and dry mustard instead of simply white vinegar, which gives the slaw a nicer, more complex flavor. Also, instead of using a full head of green cabbage, try 1/2 red cabbage and 1/2 green. It’s much more colorful and makes for a really pretty coleslaw.

  5. I totally agree about salad dressing wrecking the health benefit, which is totally annoying! Like Katie says, I’ve tried a North Carolina slaw, and really liked it. Mine did have some oil in it, but you can cut back on the oil and the sugar and still have a great tasting slaw. Here’s the recipe: http://cookingandeatinginthewindycity.blogspot.com/2008/04/last-weekend-joe-and-i-started-up-with.html

    I like your idea of pickling, too, and might have to try that. I feel like slaw goes so well w/ grilling, and we’re getting to the end of prime grilling season!

  6. Whoa, how cool is that? I hate mayo-based coleslaws, but this looks just wonderfully fresh and crisp.

  7. yum!! i love pickled stuff…and in fact, just yesterday i had a delicious little bowl of pickled slaw at a restaurant!