- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I’m a big fan of coleslaw because a terrific slaw makes the meal, whether the cool and creamy slaw is cozying up to fried chicken, served alongside barbecue or smothering a hot dog.

Slaw is a good keeper, and it’s versatile, ready to spoon onto a sandwich today, onto grilled fish tomorrow.

But instead of the usual slaw for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, why not a zesty slaw with Southwestern flavors, perfect for the ribs and chops and fried chicken on the menu? In this memorable slaw that’s quick to make, I combine creamy ranch dressing, soft avocado cubes, spicy cumin, and crunchy onion and cabbage, and shower just the right touch of cilantro on top. Feeling fancy? Add a squirt of fresh lime juice to the dressing and top the slaw with a handful of crushed tortilla chips just before serving.

Round out the Southwestern-inspired meal with chips and salsa, fried chicken and potato salad, sliced tomatoes and cantaloupe, hot corn muffins, and a Texas-style chocolate sheet cake for dessert.

Five time-shavings ways to enliven pre-shredded slaw

• Toss slaw with chopped grilled chicken and tomatoes, and moisten with Caesar salad dressing.

• Turn slaw into a roasting pan, and cover with pieces of fresh salmon. Season the salmon with seasoning salt and olive oil; cook at 400 degrees until the fish just begins to flake and is nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Serve a piece of salmon on a bed of the cooked slaw.

• Toss slaw with blue cheese crumbles, chopped toasted walnuts and thin apple slices. Moisten with mayonnaise or oil and vinegar.

• Prepare it Southern-style with sweet pickle relish, chopped Vidalia onion and mayonnaise.

• Or go Asian-style with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, a dash of sugar and hot sauce, and toasted sesame seeds.

Southwestern-style Memorial Day picnic

Tortilla chips and salsa

Fried chicken

Potato salad

Southwestern slaw with avocado and cumin

Sliced tomatoes and cantaloupe

Corn muffins

Chocolate sheet cake

Southwestern slaw with avocado and cumin

The preparation time is 10 minutes.

1 16-ounce package coleslaw mix

½ cup thinly sliced or finely chopped red onion

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ cup bottled ranch salad dressing

1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed (for about 1 cup cubes)

Creole seasoning or salt

Black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Place coleslaw mix and onion in a serving bowl, and stir to combine. Stir cumin into salad dressing. Pour salad dressing over slaw, tossing to coat it well.

Fold in avocado cubes and season with Creole seasoning or salt and pepper to taste. Wipe rim of bowl clean with a paper towel and sprinkle cilantro on top of slaw.

Serve slaw at once or cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Anne Byrn is the author of the popular Doctor series cookbooks, including ?The Cake Mix Doctor,? ?The Dinner Doctor? and ?Cupcakes From the Cake Mix Doctor? (Workman Publishing).

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