In her biweekly column, A Shared Tradition, CIA grad and amateur food historian Molly Siegler cruises around the world (and into the depths of her pantry) to explore the versatility of a single food item.
This week: Molly calls on four diverse slaws to present at summer cookouts.
Summer Slaw (photo by Sarah Shatz)
I love the simultaneously vague and specific nature of slaws. Mark Bittman hears me. This sort of preparation allows for plenty of wiggle room -- luckily, categorizing foods (secretly in my head) is one of my dorkier hobbies.
All slaws are salads, but not all salads are slaws. Slaws must have a dressing of sorts, however light, but too much dressing takes them out of the salad realm and into condiment land. Ingredients for a slaw can be shredded, grated, or very finely minced, but definitely not cubed. Slaws are primarily vegetable-based with some exceptions being made for green mango, papaya, and tart apple.
It can feel a little arbitrary, but that's part of the fun.
Kosmalli is a slaw as comfortable with afterschool-snack duty as it is at a wedding banquet.
Salade Cambodgienne is a traditional Khmer dish that draws on French and Thai influences.
A vinegary version of the mayonnaise-based slaws found stateside, krautsalat, means "cabbage salad."
Crunchy Celery, Radishes and Turnips Salad-Slaw with Blue Cheese Sauce; a bed of spicy bean sprout slaw sits underneath Yum Dogs. Photos by James Ransom (left) and Sarah Shatz
These are just a few of the ways I like to travel by way of slaws. What other regionally inspired flavors would you use to make these shredded salads your own? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
Do you love a good food theme as much as I do? Tell me what food items or themes you'd like to see featured in this column and your idea could be the subject of an upcoming post!
Like this post? See Molly's previous topic: Fruit Spreads.
Molly is a chef and food educator living and cooking in northern Wisconsin. When she's not dreaming up themed menus, she's dishing out other delicious content as the editorial assistant for the Whole Foods Market Cooking program.