The Ultimate Picnic Food
While I love summer food (peaches and tomatoes and fresh corn!), sometimes I find that picnic staples leave a little to be desired. It feels decidedly grumpy to admit that, but often I find BBQ sauce too sweet, potato salad bland and starchy, and growing up I hated coleslaw. I hated it. It always tasted like straight mayo, as if the idea was to mask the taste of cabbage with a sweet, fatty sauce. The dressing would get watery as the cabbage sat, leaving a trail of purple goo across my picnic plate. I certainly did not understand the hype.
When I worked farmers markets I would take cabbages home and learned a whole new level of appreciation for them. They are so good braised with white wine, roasted in a hot oven, and turned into salad. My salads morphed until, suddenly, I realized I was making coleslaw, just a punchier more tangy version. It's now my go-to picnic food that follows a method, not a recipe, so is endlessly adaptable. This is what I'll be making for the 4th of July this year!
I love to make slaw with whatever I have in the fridge, or whatever I'm influenced by. Much like my seasonal grain salads I have a rough recipe and adapt it around what'll be on the grill or what I'm in the mood for.
1 cabbage (preferably green to avoid purple dressing)
Mix of seasonal veggies: carrot, radish, red bell pepper, cucumber, jalapeno, fennel, radicchio, kale, cherry tomatoes
Something in the onion family: green onion, pickled red onion, shallot, spring onion
Herbs: cilantro, parsley, tarragon, basil
Optional: sunflower seeds or pepitas
Dressing: full fat or greek yogurt, a vinegar (something that goes with your flavors and/or lemon), salt, pepper, olive oil, avocado (optional), spice like cumin (optional)
Cut the cabbage head in quarters and cut out core. Slice cabbage pretty thinly and place in large bowl. If using kale, you can add at this point as well. Add 1/2 - 1tsp. of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Massage the cabbage, breaking it down a bit - this helps it absorbs flavor. To me this is the most important step! Massage for a couple of minutes then let the cabbage stand while you prep your other ingredients.
Thinly slice whatever seasonal veggies you are using and add to the bowl. Add your onion and herbs as well. Toast pepitas or sunflower seeds if you are using and toss those in as well.
Use an immersion blender or blender and put a big dollop of yogurt in, along with whatever vinegar/lemon, salt and pepper and spice. Add a quarter to half an avocado if using. Blend and then slowly add olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Dress the salad and toss, tasting to be sure there is enough salt and acid. I like mine plenty tangy but go based on your taste!