Monday, July 1, 2013

Ranch-style crudité slaw.

Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage slaw. ©  Ryan Schierling
For the longest time I thought I hated cole slaw. As it turned out, I just didn't like that typical picnic-style slaw with creamy and weirdly-sweet dressing. You know, the omnipresent variety you find in tubs in the supermarket deli.

The first "cole slaw" that I remember liking made a big impression on me, so much so that I wasn't really sure if it even could be considered a slaw so much as a shredded cabbage salad. Granted that was some [blah-blah-blah-redacted] years ago. The strangest thing is that this entire episode was also a defining moment in my appreciation for ranch dressing. Weird and tangential on the surface, I know, but I will explain.

I grew up in a household where blue cheese and Roquefort were the default, everyday salad dressings of choice. I was never one of those kids who put ketchup on everything or wanted to dip anything deep-fried in ranch dressing. In fact, I didn't really find ranch of much interest except as a suitable dunk for raw broccoli and cauliflower on the crudité platter – until that one day when someone served me shredded cabbage "cole slaw" made with ranch dressing instead of the usual fare. Suddenly a variety I could get behind! It just made sense, really. While I may not gravitate to ranch dressings for my salads, there is something to be said for the way certain vegetables are complemented by the creamy, tangy, herb and garlic flavors at its essence. This is doubly true if you make your ranch-style dressing fresh and from scratch.

Of course, since that short episode in my personal food history, I have become acquainted with many variations of slaw – some light and refreshing vinegar-based preparations and others that are creamy, but decidedly less traditional in flavor. This slaw, however, is inspired by that very first "slaw" to catch my fancy. To the cabbage I have added copious crumbles of chopped raw broccoli and cauliflower, my crudité veggies of choice, and dressed it with a homemade buttermilk ranch. 

This is not broccoli slaw out of a bag. It's more like that vegetable party platter drenched in top-notch ranch that you can eat – and keep eating – out of a bowl, with a fork. It isn't cloying or heavy and it lets the veggies speak their piece. I'd be lying if I claimed to suddenly find ranch dressing my new dressing of choice, but in this context it truly shines. And, if the kids at the picnic aren't so inclined to dig into that perfectly-arranged display of  broccoli and cauliflower on the crudité tray, they are certain to be won over by the of old-timey familiarity of this simple homestyle slaw.

Ranch-style Crudité Slaw

1/2 green cabbage, sliced thin and chopped
1/2 head cauliflower (about 2 cups), chopped
1 floret broccoli (about 2 cups), chopped, including some stem

1/2 cup real mayonnaise
3 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large clove garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons finely chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
1/8 teaspoon dried dill (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh dill)
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chopped cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. (The broccoli and cauliflower should have a nice "crumble" size and texture.)

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and white vinegar. Add the buttermilk and remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.

In a separate large bowl, put in about half of the vegetable mixture and add all of the dressing. Fold together to thoroughly coat the vegetables. Add additional vegetables to this mixture a handful at a time until everything is well-coated and it tastes like a good and nicely-seasoned proportion to you. Depending upon the size of the vegetables you began with, you will either use all of the vegetable mixture, or have a cup or so left over. If this is a concern, you can always make a double batch of the dressing and use any extra for salad or a baked potato.


  1. Weird. I grew up in a household where Italian and Ranch were almost the only thing you could get to put on a salad. Fortunately, four plus years in Europe cured me of that, and I eat olive oil and vinegar almost exclusively on salads.

    Do like the Ranch addition to cole slaw. Of course, I like almost any kind of cole slaw, for what it's worth. However, an herb mix such as this one is far superior to any that add raisins or other crap you sometimes see in commercial slaws.

    1. I continue to be fascinated by how the "family table" so imprints the baseline people have for their later food explorations. For the record, I still don't care much for that typical commercial-style slaw.


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