December 12, 2015 – Old King Cole might have been a merry old soul but he had nothing to do with cole slaw. He could, however, have eaten it. It has been a favorite side dish in Europe and North America for hundreds of years.
As with many of the dishes we know and love today cole slaw was developed as a way of stretching food. Because it’s essentially cabbage pickled in oil and vinegar it will last a long time. That was important back in the days before refrigerators.
The key ingredient of cole slaw is finely chopped cabbage in a vinaigrette. That’s the base. But every country, and seemingly every family in every country, has its own version.
In Germany it’s called Krautsalat. Cabbage with oil and vinegar. Maybe some chopped onions and apples as well.
The Italians call it Insalata Capriccos. Capricious salad. They often add a little ham and julienned peppers.
In Sweden cole slaw is traditionally served with pizza. Pizzasalad they call it. Yeah, I know. Sweden. Pizza. Not two words often seen together but never underestimate the Swedes. They sometimes add carrots and leeks. That version is called veckosalla. Week salad. It’ll last the week and still be tasty.
In the United Kingdom cole slaw always includes carrots and onion. It can also include walnuts and raisins.
The American version came late to the game. Over here we usually add a little mayonnaise to the oil and vinegar dressing. Since there was no mention of mayonnaise until 1756 it had to be some time later that our version was developed. No matter. Cole slaw quickly became, and remains, one of America’s favorite side dishes.
As we often do we were seeking an accompaniment to a huge, beautiful ribeye steak we planned to share. I surprised her by suggesting cole slaw. Surprised her because she’s usually the vegetable advocate.
I decided to keep it simple. Here’s the recipe I used.
3/4 head green cabbage, chopped fine 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 2 cloves garlic, halved 6 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 2 tablespoons mayonnaise Paprika, salt & pepper to taste
First, make the dressing. Mix sugar, mustard, paprika, pepper and salt. Add the garlic halves and olive oil. Rub the garlic halves thoroughly through the other ingredients. Add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Stir the mixture vigorously. Let it set at room temperature for about half an hour.
Remove the garlic halves. Pour the dressing over the chopped cabbage. Add the second tablespoon of mayonnaise. Mix well.
Let it set in the refrigerator for another half hour before serving.