Summer is the prime season for coleslaw, a deceptively simple dish that has almost as many variations as there are cooks to prepare it.
There’s slaw with scallions, slaw with hot peppers, slaw with bell peppers, slaw with shrimp and slaw with citrus zest — and those are just a few.
It seems almost every culture has a version of this crispy dish, probably because cabbage — the traditional ingredient — is among the oldest foods cultivated by mankind. It keeps well and can be found in virtually every climate.
Cabbage is a member of the brassica family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, radishes and turnips. It can be cooked for dishes like sauerkraut or stuffed cabbage or it can be used raw as in coleslaw and other salads.
The words we use for coleslaw have a Dutch origin: kool (cabbage) and sla (salad). Dutch immigrants brought the dish to America around 1627, according to The Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cookbook.
Coleslaw dressings are divided into two categories: mayonnaise-based or vinegar-based.
“Pepper cabbage is served with every meal on our family side of the restaurant,” says Jeff Graham, general manager of Good ’N Plenty Restaurant on Route 896 in Smoketown. (Pepper cabbage is sometimes called pepper slaw.) “It’s something that I enjoy. I prefer that to the mayonnaise-based coleslaw.”
n Good ’N Plenty has been serving pepper cabbage, a generations-old Lapp family recipe, since 1969.
“Pepper cabbage is far more refreshing and lighter on your stomach,” says Justin Lapp, a third-generation member of the Lapp family.
The traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipe used at Good ‘N Plenty includes shredded green cabbage, diced celery, diced green peppers and grated carrots. The dressing is a tangy blend of sugar, salt and vinegar.
Because the restaurant makes its pepper cabbage in mass quantities, they were unable to provide a scaled-down recipe using smaller amounts of ingredients. The following is a similar recipe using the exact same ingredients.
1 pound green cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped green peppers
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup cold water
5 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
Pepper to taste
• Leigh Menkes and his wife, Kimberly Griffith, owners of the Four54 Grill, 454 New Holland Ave., make a “nontraditional” creamy coleslaw using fire-roasted jalapeno peppers, which gives it a fiery kick.
“It’s not your grandma’s coleslaw,” says Menkes, who has owned the restaurant for about a year.
Menkes says his coleslaw, which features sour cream and sweet relish, is used primarily on top of his pork barbecue sandwiches but can also be ordered as a side dish or as takeout.
FOUR54 GRILL JALAPENO COLESLAW
8-10 fire-roasted jalapeno peppers (half of them seeded and then diced)
2 heads of cabbage shaved thin
4 ounces fresh chopped parsley
2 ounces relish
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
3 ounces white vinegar
Pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste
Toss to combine all ingredients and allow 24 hours to set up.
• If the Four54 Grill’s slaw isn’t your grandma’s coleslaw, then the one offered at Katie’s Kitchen on Route 896 in Ronks might be just that.
The restaurant, owned by John and Katie King, is completely Amish-owned and -operated and features a homemade coleslaw which is as basic and traditional as it gets.
“It’s like grandma used to make,” says Katie.
The receipe comes from Katie’s mother, Lovina Beiler of Strasburg.
“Everyone always loved mom’s coleslaw,” Katie says. “She never really had an actual recipe.”
In the Amish culture, coleslaw is served with many meals, Katie says.
“The customers say it’s the best coleslaw they ever tasted,” she adds. “The dressing is a very good sweet-and-sour dressing.”
Katie’s Kitchen also makes it own pepper cabbage, which is served as part of its Amish Wedding Meal every Tuesday night.
MOM’S COLESLAW FROM KATIE’S KITCHEN
6 cups of grated cabbage
3/4 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons chopped onion
4 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard
1 1/8 cup sugar
2 tablespoons pickle juice
• Sa La Thai Restaurant & Noodle House, 337-339 N. Queen St., offers a Thai Cabbage Salad that is a blend of American and Asian ingredients.
Originally made in Thailand using papaya, restaurant owner Sake Pruksukkasem says he tweaked the salad to be more of an American dish.
The salad contains purple and green cabbage, carrots, string beans and tomatoes. Lemon and lime juice are used as well as fish sauce, which makes it Asian.
The Thai Cabbage Salad is served in a colorful cabbage leaf, and chicken or shrimp can be added to the popular dish. Chopped peanuts are served on top.
SA LA THAI RESTAURANT & NOODLE HOUSE THAI CABBAGE SALAD
Purple and green cabbage thinly sliced
Chopped peanuts, if desired
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or salt)
3 tablespoons lime/lemon juice
6 tablespoons sugar
Chopped fresh garlic, to taste
Combine vegetables. Combine dressing ingredients and mix with vegetables.
Top with chopped peanuts, if desired.