Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thai Cabbage Slaw

When summer rolls around, it's time to pull out the patio furniture and the grill. What's more fun than a backyard cook-out? Summer meals bring to mind all the bounty of the season: grilled meats, seafood and poultry; colorful, fragrant fruit; and a bumper crop of crisp, flavorful vegetables that lend themselves to all sorts of fun and healthy summer salad creations.

You can never go wrong with a basic garden salad. You know the kind: the one with all sorts of lettuces (not including iceberg), cucumbers, carrots, peppers, radish, parsley, etc. I always, always have a variation on this salad on hand in my refrigerator. I enjoy it by itself, with chicken on top, or as a side dish.

But as you can tell from my blog, I like variety. There is more to salad than Romaine lettuce, and there is certainly more to dressings than vinaigrette or ranch. The summer is the season for cole slaw! I am most decidedly not talking about the one made with shredded cabbage, carrots and mayonnaise. Forgive me -- I don't meant to knock it-- but I can not bring myself to eat it. Maybe it's the fact that store-bought mayonnaise rarely, if ever, passes my lips. Not kidding. No, I don't use it to make tuna salad or chicken salad. That's for another blog.

Back to cole slaw . . . If I don't eat traditional cole slaw, then what do I eat? My favorites are those that use ingredients found in SE Asian cooking: lime juice, fish sauce, mint and cilantro. The dressing for the Thai Cabbage Slaw that follows is packed with flavor and it's much lighter than the mayonnaise-based dressing on traditional slaw. And, the lighter sauce also allows you to actually see the pretty vegetables, which the heavy mayo dressing can cover up. I have one more plug for this recipe: it's pretty light on calories.

There was a time when I made this slaw 2-3 times per month! Sometimes I would eat it by itself as a meal. Other times, I'd put shrimp, cubed chicken or sliced beef on top. Enjoy!

Thai Cabbage Slaw

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
1 garlic clove, minced
6 cups shredded napa (Chinese) cabbage
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add cabbages, bell pepper, and carrot, and toss gently to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour. Stir in the peanuts, cilantro, and mint just before serving. Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup).

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