- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When vegetables are cut small (shredded, minced, diced or even pulverized) and seasoned boldly, you can shift from side-of-the-plate chorus to topping status with exciting results.

Salsas, pestos and slaws fall beautifully into this category and provide a great opportunity for improvisation. Here’s where I like to get a bit wild (although not necessarily crazy) with flavor combinations. In this slaw, featuring dried shiitake mushrooms, the list of ingredients might seem long, but don’t be deterred.

This recipe is mostly a throw-together-and-let-marinate affair. It’s delicious as a side dish or an appetizer, but it works most beautifully as a relish topping for any grilled chicken, fish or tofu. It also keeps really well (up to 5 days) stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Deep-flavor shiitake slaw

The first step needs to be started about an hour in advance (longer is OK) and once assembled, the slaw needs at least 2 hours to marinate.

1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

1 medium carrot, shredded

1/4 cup minced red bell pepper

1 scallion, very finely minced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic

2 teaspoons light-colored honey

½ teaspoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons roasted peanut or walnut oil

1 tablespoon Chinese-style dark sesame oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 small bunch watercress, minced

Optional toppings:

Minced or torn cilantro leaves

Minced peanuts or cashews, lightly toasted

Minced crystallized ginger

Chili oil or red pepper flakes

Place the shiitakes in a medium-small bowl and pour about 2 cups boiling water over them. Cover the bowl with a plate, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes (and for as long as overnight).

Drain the mushrooms thoroughly, squeezing out and saving all the liquid. (Use the liquid as a delicious soup stock.) Remove and discard the stems, then thinly slice the caps and transfer to a medium-large bowl.

Add the cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, scallion and salt, and toss together gently.

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, honey, soy sauce, oils and lemon juice until smooth. Pour this into the slaw, stirring to distribute, cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 2 hours to marinate. (If you’re going to let it sit longer, refrigerate it.)

Toss in the watercress just before serving, mixing with a fork until uniformly combined.

Serve cold or at room temperature, with any or all of the optional toppings.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Mollie Katzen is the author of “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press). To contact her, go to www.molliekatzen.com.


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