Main Ingredient - The Coles

By | August 17, 2017
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Let’s talk about coleslaw for a moment. That summertime side dish staple; almost an afterthought. It wasn’t until this spring, driving past a sign on a garden center that listed “cole crops” for sale, that I really thought about coleslaw. I’d thought about what goes into coleslaw a lot, and I am a huge fan of the stuff in all its variations, but I hadn’t really thought about the name “coleslaw.” A “slaw” made from “cole.” When you lay it out that way sounds kind of funny.

According to John Ayto’s An A to Z of Food and Drink,

“English borrowed and adapted the word from Dutch koolsla at the end of the eighteenth century, probably from Dutch settlers in the USA, and the first printed example of it shows its outlandishness tamed to cold slaw--a folk-etymological modification often repeated in later years. English does however have its own equivalent to Dutch kool, 'cabbage', namely cole. Like kool, this comes ultimately from Latin caulis, 'cabbage', whose underlying etymological meaning is hollow stem’.”

Now that you know as much as anyone about the term coleslaw, you know that it can be made from any cole crop: brassicas or cruciferous vegetables and include cabbage, broccoli, rutabagas, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and kale. I’ve been buying Alaska grown broccoli for a few weeks now and I must admit to being partial to this style of broccoli salad (definitely with sunflower seeds).

What about Brussels sprouts slaw? Or cauliflower slaw? Go ahead and toss in some of that kohlrabi from your CSA box; kohlrabi is a cole!

For me, a couple of general ideas keep my slaws grounded. Bacon often makes them better, I almost always include some kind of toasted nuts or seeds, and a little sweetness (dried cherries, a dash of birch syrup or honey) adds balance to whatever vinegar you choose (and there should always be a little vinegar).  

Kale, also a cole, is featured in this colorful recipe that Leslie Evenden from Haines shared with us a few weeks ago. We made a few modifications to her mix and offer a dish that is not just beautiful, but a delicious way to celebrate the bounty of summer! Enjoy it this weekend alongside some grilled salmon or a beer can chicken.

Midsummer Kaleslaw

(serves 4 to 6)


1/2 head red cabbage, finely chopped

1 bunch kale, ribbon chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin

2 carrots, shredded

1 apple, julienned


3/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin, if you have it)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or cilantro

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons honey

salt and pepper

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients together and mix well. Taste, adjust seasonings, then toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette and let marinate at least 1 hour before serving. You may not use all the vinaigrette, but it makes a great dressing for other salads, or a simple marinade.  


Article from Edible Alaska at
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