Coleslaw is such an April recipe—a bridge from the slushy shores of winter cold-storage leftovers to the sunny banks of spring picnics and barbecuing. It feels wrong to keep at it with the spongy turnips and the thick-cored parsnips, what with the tinkling thaw and the peepers starting up so gamely. But, then, there aren’t actually asparagus yet, at least not here, and there aren’t peas or radishes, either, or mint or, really, anything. Just a couple inch-long chives, but Birdy already ate them all. We do still have cabbage, though. And coleslaw just feels kind of optimistic.
You don’t need a recipe, I know, but this is a good one anyway, and I offer it with a special nod to the folks with one or more vegetarians in the house. Because miso has become my go-to vegetarian funkenator. Times when I might typically turn to anchovies, fish sauce, or bacon, I reach for miso instead, and count on its profound savoriness to change it up a little, to turn a recipe from bland to lip-smackingly edgy.
Not that I’m a coleslaw snob, because I’m not: I like it sweet and mayonnaisey or sharp and vinegary and my favorite, back in the day, used to be the finely-chopped highly-celery-seeded version you could get at KFC. (Yum.) This one is bright and citrusy, but with a little of that miso baritone humming along the bottom. It’s a creamy, delicious foil for burgers or pork, or for veggie burgers or tofu of all kinds. Until asparagus: coleslaw!
p.s. I am compiling all those awesome book recommendations into a list. More soon.
I wish I’d taken a picture of the cilantro I used. It was just the rubber-banded-together stems after I’d already used all the lovely leaves in something else. But the stems were just perfect here. This coleslaw would benefit from something crunchy, such as toasted pumpkin seeds.
6 cups shredded cabbage (I still love, and use constantly, this cheapo mandolin)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
½ cup slivered cilantro leaves and/or stems
1/3 cup Hellmann’s or Real Foods mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons white miso (I love, and use exclusively, Miso Master Mellow White Miso)
The juice and grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
A dash of something spicy (I used Serrano-spiked vinegar, but hot sauce is a good idea too)
Additional salt and lime juice or vinegar
In a large bowl, sprinkle the salt over the cabbage and squeeze it around with your hands until it feels juicy. Leave it while you whisk together first the mayo and the miso, and then whisk in the lime juice and zest, the sugar, the vinegar, and whatever spicy thing you might like to add.
If the cabbage has given up any liquid drain it, then fold in the dressing along with the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more acid or salt or miso or spice if it needs a punch. Serve right away or chill it. If you chill it first, then stir and taste it again before you serve it.