I never felt one way or the other about coleslaw. There it sat at class picnics or family barbecues — the store-bought kind, inevitably, wilting somewhat in the July sun, no one quite sure who brought it and no one quite sure what to do with the leftovers at the end of the afternoon. I knew people liked it, of course. It was a popular side at the diner I worked at in high school, and it’s an undisputed staple any time a group of Americans eats outside in the summer. But I had never thought to make it myself, nor did I imagine it could be elevated beyond its traditional cabbage, carrot, and mayonnaise formula.
All that changed when I found myself with two ingredients in my fridge that needed to be used pronto: half a head of green cabbage left over from this deliciousness and a mango-lime-coconut sauce that had been put to very good use over a bowl of roasted squash, kale, and black beans the weekend before when a couple of foodie friends were in town. These two seemingly incompatible ingredients sparked within me a dormant coleslaw curiosity, and in very short order, this mango slaw was born: a tangy-crunchy-sweet salad with plenty of protein (thank you, chickpeas and peanuts) to get you through the day.
Before you coleslaw purists start arguing that a coleslaw sans mayo is no coleslaw at all, let’s dip into a quick history of America’s favorite salad to set a few things straight. According to the Internet, people have been eating coleslaw (or some version of it) since ancient Roman times. Mayonnaise, lest you forget, was the brainchild of a French chef in the mid-18th century. Do you see what I’m getting at? Turns out that mayo-less is how we should have been eating coleslaw all along.
And since I can’t resist: the etymology of coleslaw is worth mentioning. The word coleslaw is thought to derive from the Dutch word koolsla, itself a shortening of koolsalade meaning “cabbage salad.” When the term first arrived in the U.S., however, a fun linguistic process known as folk etymology rendered the name “cold-slaw” and the mistake persists to this day.
Folk etymology, if you’re interested (and how could you not be?), is when a word or phrase is changed from an unfamiliar form to a more familiar one, and in doing so, reflects the connection that speakers think exists between the thing and the more familiar term. Coleslaw is cold, after all. Other examples include: chaise lounge (actually chaise longue, meaning “long chair” in French), shamefaced (originally shamefast, with fast meaning “fixed in place”), and humble pie (kind of gross, but the original term was umble pie, a reference to edible animal entrails).
OK, enough linguistics — on to the recipe!
mango slaw with crispy chickpeas
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 ripe mango
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup coconut milk (optional)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
First, prepare the mango-lime vinaigrette. In a mixing bowl (if using an immersion blender), blender, or food processor, combine mango, lime juice, coconut milk (if using), vinegar, oil, and salt. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sliced cabbage, pepper, and vinaigrette. Stir until your veggies are well-coated, then place in the fridge for an hour or so.
Meanwhile, turn your attention to the chickpeas. Preheat the oven to 400 F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss chickpeas with oil, cumin, chili powder, and a sprinkling of salt. Bake, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes, or until chickpeas have reach desired and irresistible crispiness.
Finally, add chickpeas to your slaw and toss. Serve with a smattering of peanuts.
This coleslaw held up well in the fridge for a few days, and brought a welcomed brightness and crunch to my midday meal. Who woulda thunk the classic BBQ side could taste just as good on a snowy day in February?