Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cole slaw in the Kitchen

Memorial Day is coming up and, for many, that means gatherings. There were a few e-mails asking for a recipe of a dish they could take -- always great to plan ahead. Samantha wrote to say she wanted to take cole slaw because it wouldn't require cooking.

Here's the problem I had, I really don't care for most cole slaw. Most of the time, you're dealing with some cabbage smothered in mayo. I mentioned to Wally's mother and Krista how I'd be providing a recipe but didn't really care for cole slaw and they both ended up providing recipes for cole slaw "you'll love!" This is a combination of two of their best recipes and it's actually very good.

I e-mailed Samantha to make sure she hadn't signed up to bring cole slaw and she wrote back that her family was "way too casual" for signing up. Which makes this dish even better. Why's that?

Picture cole slaw. You probably see green cabbage. This recipe uses red cabbage. So if you show up with the dish, it's different enough that if four people brought cole slaw, yours will still stand out. Krista told a horror story, it's why she uses red cabbage, that Wally's mother and I still can't get over. At a July 4th gathering on her father's side, one of her aunts ("who just took charge") was quite rude about the dishes brought. There were a number of cole slaw dishes and a number of baked beans. The aunt dumped all the baked beans dishes into one pot and all the cole slaw dishes into one container. Why? "They're all the same."

That is so insulting to anyone who brought the dish and since everyone has their own favorite ingredients, I can't imagine the combined dishes of either baked beans or cole slaw tasting anything but generic (unless they just ended up tasting bad).

The only one that didn't get combined, Krista said, was the red cabbage cole slaw that a cousin had brought. Both Krista and Wally's mother report that red cabbage cole slaw usually gets a little more attention if there are several cole slaws present -- just due to its color and the fact that everyone's expecting green cabbage.

Like green cabbage, red cabbage if packed with vitamins, minerals and a good source of fiber. In addition to that, red cabbage is also a source of anthocyanins which is an antioxidants. The jury may not have come back with the final verdict on antioxidants but it's thought that it might be able to slow the cross-linking that occurs within our cells as we age.

Thanks to my family, who are not fans of cole slaw either, for tasting variations and to Krista and Wally's mother for making their own version of the final recipe we're going with to make sure they, cole slaw lovers, enjoyed it as well.

Here's what you need:

2 medium red cabbages, shredded
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced or diced
4 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced and chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced and diced or strips

Two medium red cabbages? If you're an expert at shredding and see a large cabbage that's perfect, grab it. But for someone who may not be used to using cabbage, I think they'll be able to shred the medium ones easier. Krista worried about that as well and said for anyone who's confused, just do this: slice a head of cabbage into strips, then chop the strips into smaller pieces.

Bell peppers really bring a new taste to the dish. (Both Wally's mother and Krista use bell peppers.) In terms of appearance, they're shinier than carrots and give the dish a nice look as well as a wonderful taste.

Celery should be simple enough. Carrots? With all ingredients remember to rinse them first. In addition, you'll need to peel the outer layer off the carrots. You can buy carrots that are peeled but they're often smaller carrots. If you go with the already peeled carrots (still remember to rinse them off) buy eight of the small ones. Then chop them into small pieces or use a peeler to get strips.

That's the dry dish. Cole slaw requires a dressing. If you're pulling this together for the first time and your mind is reeling, Krista recommends Kraft's Cole Slaw Dressing which you buy in the bottle and then just follow the recommended directions on the back of the bottle for how much to use.

If you'd like to make your own dressing, here's an easy one that will bring out the taste of the dish:

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Combine the above in a small bowl and then stir until it has a smooth texture. Add to the cole slaw ingredients and toss to spread the dressing. Now you can use low fat or no fat sour cream and mayo. If you're worried about sugar intake or have diabetes (or you know someone attending does), you can use a sugar substitute. You can even substitute red wine vinegar if you prefer.

If you've done all the above, you're done. But, if you'd like to do a little extra, bring a container of raisins or cranberries (or both). Don't add them to the dish. Not everyone likes them and you'll end up with at least one person complaining, "Raisins!" Just provide them on the side and people can add them to their portion if they choose.

My family enjoyed adding them and the cranberries was the only thing that convinced my son Mike to eat Friday's round of cole slaw. None of them are big fans and we had cole slaw all week as I attempted to find a recipe that everyone could enjoy.

By bringing the dish, with or without raisins and/or cranberries, chances are that even if others bring cole slaw, your dish will be different enough due to the red cabbage that there won't be an attitude of "Another cole slaw dish."

I'd thought there would be something to pull from this morning's Boston Globe but there isn't anything that really reached me. (My son has highlighted which is a nice op-ed, but I was hoping for some news in the news section.) So instead, I'm offering up three headlines from Democracy Now! which can be expected to highlight the stories we need to know about. I'm pulling from the best of Maria offers each week at The Common Ills (sometimes Miguel or Francisco does the selection and they'll be doing it this summer when Maria takes a vacation with her family to Mexico). If you've never looked over the summary, please do because the point of it, the reason all three take the time to highlight it, is because Democracy Now! is providing daily headlines in Spanish and English.

"Senate Vote Makes English US "National Language" (Democracy Now!):
On Capitol Hill, the Senate voted Thursday to make English the "national language" of the United States. The measure affirms that that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except those already guaranteed by law. Immigrant-rights activists called the vote a major defeat.

Senate Votes To Build 370-Mile Border Fence" (Democracy Now!):
The Senate has voted to build a fence along parts of the Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country. In total, 370 miles of triple-layered barriers would be added near San Diego and in the Arizona desert. Senators also approved a provision that would prevent illegal immigrants from petitioning for a guest-worker permit without the sponsorship an employer. And in a unanimous vote, Senate accepted an amendment that would bar granting work permits to undocumented immigrants convicted of either a felony or at least three misdemeanors. The measure would effect even those who ignored a court-deportation order.

Bush: 6,000 National Guard Troops to Be Deployed to Border" (Democracy Now!):
President Bush has called for 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border. Bush's proposal came during a rare prime-time address during which he also called on Congress to find a way to agree on immigration reform.
President Bush: "The United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: the border should be open to trade and lawful immigration and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers and terrorists." President Bush's call for National Guard troops on the Mexican border has already been widely criticized. Mexican President Vicente Fox called the White House on Sunday to express concern over the increased militarization of the border. In Washington numerous politicians said the National Guard is already stretched too thin.
Democratic Senator Richard Durbin: "How much more are we going to ask our National Guard? They have shown they will do everything asked of them to protect and defend this nation. They have demonstrated that in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast after Katrina, but our Guards and reserves are stretched dangerously thin."
According to the Los Angeles Times, members of the Guard will be deployed to the border for two-week shifts during a period when they would normally be in training. By losing two weeks of training, Bush's plan might result in Guard troops being less prepared for their primary roles -- responding to natural and other disasters.

Read all three of those and you see that the most pressing issue on the mind of Bully Boy and his supporters is attacking and scapegoating. The war must be going so well, I guess. (It's not, read C.I.'s "Democracy Now: Eduardo Galeano" for the details from Friday.) The economy must be booming, right? Wrong. But apparently attacking gays and lesbians might not fuel election hopes for 2006 so they need something to add to the mix. When you have nothing to offer the nation, you find someone to attack, in this case immigrants, so it's look like you're actually addressing the most pressing issues.

I'll add that I've always voted for Ted Kennedy and I'm glad to have him as my senator but he's dead wrong on the immigration bill. It really saddens me to see him, hear him or read of him endorsing the bill the Senate passed that does not provide any help to immigrants but does create a new hurdle for them. (Read C.I.'s "NYT: Carl Hulse provides the primer on advocacy journalism.")

Some of the things I enjoyed online this week:

"Surprise interview"
"rebecca winters has a warning"
"Leather Prada pumps and tears"
"NYT: Like an unnamed Dem is all excited and giddy about being invited!"
"NYT continues to play silent and stupid on the NSA scandals""Leather Prada pumps and tears"
"Helen Reddy, Burger King, Music"
"Church Committee Counsel Frederick Schwarz on Corporate Involvement in Government Spying"
"We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity"
"Pearl Jam does Pearl Jam"
"Who exactly are the outlaws?"