I am very excited* to announce the opening day of what we call slaw season at the Smitten Kitchen. There is nothing better than a crunchy, lettuce-free, wilt-resistant salad in the summer, and I don’t just mean cabbage swimming in mayo. It could be broccoli or cauliflower, vegetables fine and pickled on sandwiches and tacos, and honestly, if it’s a vegetable, I feel confident I could slaw it, despite absolutely nobody requesting that I do.
Last month on vacation in Florida, I ate a salad like this** by a pool (ah, vacation, I miss you so much) and while I swear on a stack of cookbooks that if I’m a guest in your home, anything you make for me is literally the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, I’m always grateful for it and uncritiquing of it… this doesn’t apply to restaurants. I know I could do it better. So, I came home and started tinkering with a ratio (2:4:1) of cabbage to vegetables to crunchy things auditioned with three different dressings (one more of sesame-peanut sauce, one more of a nuoc cham, and one more of a ginger-scallion herby mixture) and concluded that the very best dressing for this salad already exists — the miso-sesame dressing on this Miso Sweet Potato Broccoli Bowl that I first used on the Sugar Snap Slaw in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
From here, you can add protein, if you wish. We brushed chicken thigh cutlets with a mix of honey and dark soy sauce and grilled them, then cut them thin, but I think tofu would also be excellent here (either brushed and grilled the same, or raw, as it doesn’t need to be cooked). Like the beach bean salad, this salad has portability in mind as it will hold up for hours, and even days if you keep the dressing separate. It wants to tag along with you on the good life, lounging by a sparkling blue pool this weekend (just tell me what time to arrive) and saving you from concession stand lines — which, according to my own personal rules, are only acceptable for funnel cake.
* Well: … I *was* excited about the opening day of slaw season, intended for yesterday. But, like millions of other parents in this country, I had to drop my 6 year-old off at elementary school yesterday and today it was any other day and not think about the knot of doom and dread in my stomach at the possibility that she would not return to me later, or my son, away on a school trip he’s been excited about for months. I cannot fathom it and I don’t want to and I shouldn’t have to, nobody should. I don’t need to tell you that we have a problem in America that’s unique to us in its frequency and in our inability to do a damned thing about it. I don’t need to tell you that it’s not okay that we’ve had more mass shootings that days in the year so far. It seems clear to me that there are plenty of sound (NYT) solutions out there. Here are a few places you can donate if you agree: Everytown for Gun Safety, Sandy Hook Promise, and many more listed in this article.
** I know this salads like this are sometimes called an Asian Chicken Salad or the like but I think it’s worth mentioning that there’s been a lot of pushback about it in the last few years (NYT, an unlocked article), as the presence of miso or ginger doesn’t make something of a 48-country continent.
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Poolside Sesame Slaw
I wanted this salad to be as flexible as what’s in your fridge. I’ve made it with all and some of the vegetables below, but it would be unquestionably excellent with thinly-sliced raw asparagus, radishes, barely-cooked green beans, and more. For the crunch element, you could use salted cashews, sunflower seeds, or even toasted black and white sesame seeds (I’d use just a few tablespoons of seeds). For protein, we brushed 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs with a 1:1 mixture of dark soy sauce and honey, grilled them, then sliced them thin, but you could also do the same with tofu here, for an entirely vegan salad.
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons olive or a neutral oil
- Salt and Sriracha to taste
- 4 cups thinly sliced mixed carrots, cucumber, celery, bell peppers, sugar snaps, and/or snow peas
- 2 cups thinly sliced red, green, savoy, or napa cabbage
- 1 cup chopped salted peanuts
- 1 cup thinly sliced scallion (white and green parts)
- Handful chopped fresh cilantro, if you wish
- About 1 cup Miso-Sesame Dressing (above)
- 1 pound grilled chicken thighs, thinly sliced (optional, see Note)
Assemble the salad: Holding back a little of the peanuts, scallion, and herbs for garnish, add all ingredients to a large bowl and toss with half of the dressing, adding some or all of the remaining dressing to taste. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Sprinkle with reserved peanuts, scallions, and herbs for extra prettiness. Eat right away or bring it somewhere wonderful in a cooler and eat it in a few hours.
Do ahead: The dressing and chopped vegetables (except the cilantro, which might wilt faster), stored separately, will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.