Summer Slaw with a Twist. Photo by Sam Cohen

My friend and former roommate Eli once told me it was his goal to incorporate some element of raw food into every one of his meals. For him, this often took the form of shaved red cabbage sprinkled on top of a taco or baked fish. There was red cabbage in my fridge constantly, and so I experimented with this crunchy, faintly bitter brassica.

Hannaford always carries small to large cabbages, good for however many you’re feeding, and once cut, the cross section is one of the most beautiful landscapes in cooking.

Years ago on hot summer days my mom would make us a crunchy summer slaw with less mayo than most other versions. The secret ingredient – pickle juice – gave it a lovely and surprising tang (sorry for spilling the beans, Mom!).

I could never recreate my mom’s version, so this is my own take on a fresh, crunchy slaw with a twist.  I make a satisfying mix-up of raw summer vegetables combined with pantry dwellers that most people possess but that aren’t always found in slaws.

The result is a bright, acidic, creamy, salty, textural delight, where mayo is very intentionally not the star. It’s also a fast, easy addition to any summer barbecue or potluck, and I guarantee you will pleasantly surprise folks with the unexpected flavor profile.



You can customize this endlessly with more crunchy things. Chopped peanuts? Sure! Water chestnuts? Snap peas? Peppers? By all means. If you don’t have any Tajin seasoning (a Mexican mix of lime, chili and salt) just add more lime juice.

½ medium red cabbage

1 bunch spring onions

2-3 medium carrots (fun carrot colors encouraged: yellow, purple, white)

½ of a lime, or more to taste

1-2 spoonfuls Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise


2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Splash soy sauce or liquid aminos

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon Tajin seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

Black and white sesame seeds, to garnish


Remove the core of the cabbage half. Now slice it: You have some options here depending on how fine you like your slices. A mandolin is great for finely sliced, but I find that a chef’s knife is all I need. You’re trying to optimize your slice thickness to desired crunch ratios, depending on what you prefer.

Once the cabbage is all sliced, toss it into a large mixing bowl. Chop the spring onions (both whites and greens) into coins and add to the bowl with the cabbage. Shred the carrots and add to the bowl. I use the largest holes on a box grater. Add the lime juice, mayo, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, Tajin and salt. Mix mix mix. Add more salt and/or acid to taste.

The slaw gets better after 30 minutes in the fridge. When you are ready to serve it, sprinkle it with the sesame seeds.

When I’m at my parents’ house, my father will still remind me to eat with the Yiddish expression “Ess, ess, mein kindt” – eat, eat, my child. You could also use the Hebrew for bon appetit – “beteavon.” “Enjoy” also works!

Sam Cohen and his sous chef, Pippin, in the kitchen. Photo by Helen Cohen


“I worked for five years in the Preble Street soup kitchen in Portland. I cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners for who knows how many people, with who knows how many bricks of margarine, countless pounds of donated commodity meat and bruised vegetables. In that setting one never quite knew what ingredients would be available, and the time to prep and cook on that scale creates a harriedness that is not my style at home. At home I have the luxury of easing into every meal. Slow it down and absorb all the sounds and smells and textures. Each meal becomes a small exercise in gratitude, with improvisational elements learned from the soup kitchen still part of the mix.

“I’m Jewish and I cook most of the big headliners: challah, latkes, hamentashen, matzo ball soup, etc. But maybe I cook the matzo balls in a ramen broth to mix things up. It’ll cure whatever ails you, that I promise. I cook for myself and my wife, all vegetarian. We plan our meals for the week, with the goal of making enough of each meal that we get 2-3 lunches from leftovers. We live in South Portland with our ginger cat, Pippin.”

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Press Herald account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.

filed under: