Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kale and Red Cabbage Slaw

I’ve blogged before about my ever-growing cole slaw repertoire. I’ve tried Burmese, Thai, and Indian twists on the American classic, recreated the excellent version from Leon in London, and tested countless other variations that didn’t quite make the cut to share with you. But call off the search, because this is it. The ultimate. The humdinger. The cole slaw I’ll be eating at least once a week all summer long. Just assembling the ingredients sparked my appetite. The vibrant ribbons of dark green kale and deep purple cabbage, highlighted with a smattering of bright white corn and crumbled cotija cheese, are as pretty as a still life. And the incredible dressing is tangy, vibrant, and totally mayo-free. 
I’ve already served this slaw alongside tacos and atop a brown rice bowl, but it would pair equally well with burgers, grilled salmon, or roast chicken. It’s terrifically versatile, and the kale and red cabbage are such sturdy vegetables that this doesn’t get soggy and wilt like other cole slaws. I never would have stumbled onto this recipe, except that I’ve been obsessed with The Family Chef, an unlikely gem of a cookbook from some personal chefs to the stars. This is normally the kind of thing that triggers my gag reflex, and yet having cooked from the book for months now, it's how I want to eat every day—healthful, flavorful food that’s not incredibly elaborate or expensive. (The book is also absurdly cheap at Amazon right now, I'm seeing used copies for under $3).

Kale and Red Cabbage Slaw (Adapted from a recipe by Jewels and Jill Elmore)
Though the original recipe suggests rice vinegar as a substitute, I highly recommend tracking down coconut vinegar. It added a terrific tartness to the dressing and has become my new secret ingredient. I found a bottle at Rainbow Grocery. You can look for it in your local health food store, or online.

1 bunch of kale
½ head of red cabbage
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 ear of white corn
¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese

1 shallot, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
3 tablespoons coconut vinegar
2 tablespoons best quality olive oil
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1. Wash the kale and separate the leaves from the stems using a sharp knife or by tearing it with your hands. Slice the leaves into thin ribbons and dry well. Discard the stems.

2. Core and wash the red cabbage. Slice into thin ribbons and dry well.

3. Husk and wash the corn and cut the kernels off with a sharp knife.

4. In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, kale, and corn, along with the cotija cheese and cilantro.

5. Mix all the dressing ingredients together (I like to use a small jar with a lid or a tiny Snapware container and just shake them all up). Toss the slaw with the dressing and let sit for ten minutes for the flavors to meld.


  1. I love kale! This looks delicious with the cheese and cilantro.

  2. Kale and cabbage I love to eat, nice preparation.

  3. Wow! This slaw is great! I have twice made it and it brought to bbq's with great reviews and recipe requests. I do a "lazy" version with one 10 oz bag of shredded red cabbage. In the bowl I add an equal amount of hand shredded kale (after main stems from each leaf have been removed). Add one 15 oz can of white corn (drained of liquid). I like cheese so I add about a half cup of shredded parmesan cheese (instead if the cotija) that I then crumble into smaller pieces. Add the minced shallots and chopped cilantro, then the dressing. I wanted the dressing little "wetter" so I added one extra portion of each of the dressing ingredients. I couldn't find the coconut vinegar anywhere so I used rice vinegar instead. I think it should marinate in the fridge for several hours prior to serving. Mix it up every hour or so to evenly distribute the dessing. This is even tastier the next day and keeps well for several days. You really should give this slaw a try! It's easy and inexpensive to make and great to bring to a summer bbq or pot luck.


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