Summer is the time for picnics. I love picnics near a lake, a river or by the ocean. Eating outside on a beautiful day in the summertime is great. After a day of swimming and soaking in the sun, when you are tired and almost ready to nap, you find a bit of shade and get ready to feast. There’s nothing like a day in the sun followed by someone opening up a cooler full of watermelon, fruit salad, fresh green salad, corn on the cob, potato salad, chips, dips, drinks, and sandwiches. Okay, that would be quite a huge picnic…and a lot of salads. I like to think and eat big. Oops, I left out the coleslaw (another salad). Maybe that is because I have never been a big fan of coleslaw. For me, coleslaw always seems listless, drippy and heavy, especially if it has been sitting in the cooler all day. I was never a huge fan of mayonnaise growing up. So, I usually passed on the coleslaw. However, I shouldn’t leave it out of a typical summer picnic because it usually makes an appearance. Instead, I might just give it a makeover.
Coleslaw wasn’t always made with mayonnaise. Originally, The Dutch brought over coleslaw, sometimes called “slaw,” to the United States. The Dutch, when they came to what is now New York, started growing cabbage around the Hudson River. They shredded this cabbage and created a cabbage salad or “koolsla”. Kool means cabbage in Dutch and sla means salad. In those days, coleslaw was made with cream. Mayonnaise wasn’t invented until the mid 18th century. So, the recipe we now know is only about two hundred and fifty years old.
Cabbage, obviously, is the star of the koolsla. Coleslaw always begins with cabbage and then different vegetables are added. I have seen it with carrots, onions and sometimes tomatoes. I have also eaten coleslaw with peanuts added. Most times, I see it with just cabbage and carrots. Cabbage comes in a variety of types. All cabbages are a good source of dietary fiber and decrease blood cholesterol levels. I prefer the red cabbage. I like the robust hearty flavor and the deep rich purple color. Red cabbage contains more phytonutrients than the green. Phytonutrients help prevent cancer by blocking tumor formation. They also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. Furthermore, phytonutrients boost immunity by fighting bacteria, viruses and fungi. Not only does the red cabbage have more phytonutrients, they also have two times the vitamin C as green cabbage. So, the red cabbage is prettier and healthier.
It seems crazy to drench cabbage in a heavy, rich, high calorie dressing when it is so good for us. My husband, Claud, loves coleslaw…the mayonnaise kind. When we first met, in England, he used to pile it on top of his pepperoni pizza. I thought that was kind of strange. I am still not sure if it is an English thing or just a Claud thing to put coleslaw on top of pizza. It doesn’t matter…I love him either way. I used to dip my pizza into ranch dressing. I’m sure he thought that was weird. On a side note…England doesn’t even have ranch dressing. I’m always introducing it to people when they come here from England to visit. Of course, they pronounce it, “raunch.” Everyone always loves it. I think it would be a great business idea for someone over here to start importing it to England.
I thought it would be hard work to get Claud to appreciate coleslaw that didn’t have mayonnaise in it. I wanted to make it without mayonnaise and without any oil at all. I really wanted my coleslaw recipe to be heart healthy and low calorie. I wasn’t sure if he would go for it. To trick him, I made him a big barbeque beef sandwich on ciabatta bread. I thought if he saw that on his plate, he be so excited that he wouldn’t even notice the difference in the coleslaw. I piled his sandwich high with tangy, spicy barbeque beef, lettuce, tomato and onion slices. I placed a hot cob of corn on the side. Next to all of this, I positioned a pile of the heart healthy coleslaw. I handed it to him without saying a word.
I ate a big plate of the coleslaw while I watched him through the corner of my eye. We were sitting on the couch because I couldn’t tear him away from “Diamond Divers,” his new favorite show. I know this was not exactly a picnic by the water. I was just testing this recipe out for our next picnic. He took a few bites in between eating the messy sandwich. He took a few more bites after the sandwich was gone. When he finished, there was only a little coleslaw remaining on the plate. I took that as a victory. Sure, it was the only food he left on his plate, but he did eat most of it. He thanked me and said the dinner was lovely. He really said “lovely.” You have got to love the Brits. I took that to mean the coleslaw was pretty darn good.
Creamy Dijon Cole Slaw
½ red cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, grated
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and carrots. In a small bowl, combine mustard, paprika, vinegar, sugar, and celery seed. Whisk together. Add salt and pepper. Pour over the cabbage and carrots and toss.