Monday, December 28, 2015

Cilantro Lime Slaw

   Back when I was in college I was kind of a glutton for punishment. I had my own apartment, when to school full time, but scheduled all my classes for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so I could work my TWO part time jobs- one from 5:30am to 2:30pm, the other 3:30pm to closing, sometimes midnight or later- Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. My evening part time jobs was at an Outback Steakhouse, and I loved it. Back then Outback still made everything from scratch, right down to sauces and french fries, so I learned a lot as a server going in and out of the kitchen all night. I'm so thankful for both the work ethic and the kitchen skills that time in my life taught me.
   When I got married and moved away, my husband and I started working opposite shifts to trade off the baby and skip childcare expenses. That meant I stopped teaching after Baby #1 was born, and went back to being a server, that time at a high end 'steak and seafood' kind of place that again made everything from scratch. One of their very popular dishes was a Mahi Mahi taco. It was very simple- just lightly seasoned grilled cubes of Mahi Mahi on a small tortilla with a citrusy cabbage slaw. I had never seen a slaw before that was not a mayo dressing(nor had I ever had a cabbage slaw I liked), and it intrigued me. It actually ended up being really delicious. No sugary-sweetness or mayo-turned-watery-slop. Just fresh, crunchy veggies, a bright citrus vinegarette, and a light onion bite. Not to mention- exponentially more healthy without being coated in sugar and food lube. 
   Over the years I have worked on recreating that flavor myself at home, and tweaking it to my family's liking. Here's what we like, but it's really up to you and yours to make it fit your taste buds:

1/2 large organic cabbage
2 organic carrots
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 cup cilantro
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup organic olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Start by giving the cabbage a nice fine chop. If you have a food processor to shred it for you that is a great option and makes this recipe even faster, but alas mine bit the dust last year and has yet to be replaced so knife work it is for me. 

Next, give the carrots a good, hardy shred, and slice the onion very thin. Again, if you have a food processor with a slicing and shredding heads then you can can just drop these veg in, too, and your work is done in seconds. I chop, chop, chop. If you're not a huge raw onion fan or just like something milder than yellow onions, you can use a sweet onion, or even chop a couple green onions.

Chop the cilantro into nice fine ribbons and toss them on top of the pile. Next, pull out a small dish or glass measuring cup for making the dressing. I like to use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup because there measurement lines are already there for me, and there's plenty of room for whisking. 

Add the lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and whisk-whisk-whisk until it emulsifies into a nice, thick, cohesive dressing. Pour it over the bowl of veggies and mix well with tongs, your hands, whatever you prefer, but make sure the ingredients are all really thoroughly combined and dressing coats everything. 

A word of caution: This is going to look like a very small amount of dressing for such a mounded bowl of veggies. Trust me, it's plenty. I learned the hard way back in my restaurant days that if you add too much dressing to a slaw you end up with wilted veggies and that nasty, watery soup in the bottom of the bowl, and "too much" usually looks like "just enough." So err on the side of too little. You can always add more later. 

Let the slaw sit for at least an hour before you serve it. After the flavors have had a chance to marry and the veggies have started to soften a little in the acidic dressing, you can toss it again with tongs, scooping from the bottom up to ensure everything's well-coated, and give it a taste. If you think the dressing is too light, now's the time to add more but sparingly

This is the perfect side for BBQ's, classic picnic foods, and yes, on top of tacos. Today we had it with Mexican seasoned black beans, grilled and season chicken on tortillas for delicious, fresh tacos that the kids added shredded cheese and sour cream to as well. Adding a dry cajun seasoning blend to the dressing adds some kick and delicious flavor, but we keep it mild around here to make sure toddler tongues keep eating. 

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