Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Slaw

Wild Fennel growing roadside by the Yuba River, CA.
Fennel grows wild throughout California.  It is often found in the mountains by the side of the road and along paths near the coast, and so naturally comes to mind when I think of summer.  The sweet, slightly liquorice-y smell is a pleasant reminder of cool shady hollows found on warm summer days of hiking or fishing. 

When we think of fennel for cooking, it is usually in relation to using the seeds in Italian sausages, or something similar, but the fresh bulb is such a wonderful vegetable, whether braised, grilled, or shaved raw into a salad. The latter works particularly well to punch up another summer classic: Coleslaw.

This recipe uses plain nonfat Greek yogurt, with just a couple spoonfuls of mayo to enrich the flavor.  This is a technique I use for many dressings and sauces, from creamy salad dressings, to tartar sauce, to tuna and chicken salads, it takes very little mayo to bring the flavor, and the Greek yogurt brings the creaminess without the fat.  In this recipe, the side benefit is that you don't have to cut the dressing with milk to cut down on the greasiness of the mayo, so the dressing is thicker and sticks to the slaw better, without tasting heavy.  This slaw is light and refreshing, but satisfyingly creamy, sweet, tangy, & spicy.

You can buy your cabbage precut (I prefer the fine "floss" cut), or slice it thinly with a knife or thin slicing disc with a food processor, but to get a really good texture on the fennel, I recommend using a mandolin with a matchstick or shredding attachment.  I use a cheap green plastic one I got from the Asian market, and use the medium shredding comb with the blade set thin.  I use the same mandolin for the cabbage, leaving off the shredding comb, and slicing very thin, then discarding any overly thick pieces from the ribs. 

This slaw goes great with barbeque, but holds it's own with more sophisticated pairings too.  Try stirring in a teaspoon of poppy seeds, or serving with sweet and spicy cold Thai sliced sirloin for a cool meal on a hot day.

Summer Fennel Slaw

½ cabbage, sliced fine
1 bulb fennel, shredded fine
1-2 red jalapenos, sliced fine
table salt
1 (7-ounce container) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar or equivalent sweetener
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Shred or slice cabbage fine, salt liberally, and set aside in a colander while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

In a medium bowl, stir together yogurt, mayo, vinegar, Dijon, sweetener, pepper, fennel, and some of the parsley.

In a large bowl, shred the fennel, and add the jalapenos, sliced into very thin julienne.   Rinse the cabbage briefly, squeeze out excess water, and place in a salad spinner lined with paper towels.  Push to edges, distributing evenly so as to give a smooth spin.  Give it a couple of spins, and then remove cabbage to the big bowl.  Stir dressing and vegetables together and season to taste if needed.  Sprinkle remaining parley or minced fennel fronds over slaw to serve. 

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post...and I'm happy to see you write about a vegetable I am more or less addicted too! I took it as a "sign" that Sonoma Couty would be right for us when I saw luxuriant fennel growing by the side of road! Last year, I pulled off some green fronds and used it to flavor a quick shrimp and tomato saute...perfect!

    Love this recipe...we will give it try soon.