Blenda’s Summer Cole Slaw

“Have some slaw.” I am certain that I heard my mother offer her cole slaw more than a thousand times to someone at the table. She served it with fish, chicken, pork and sandwiches. When we went on a picnic, we often had cole slaw to go with the hot dogs. Hamburgers for supper came with mustard, ketchup, fried potatoes and slaw, and when we ate bratwurst there was slaw on the table in addition to or in place of sauerkraut.

Mom’s cole slaw was a lot like Jerri’s, cabbage dressed with mayonnaise and vinegar (and sour cream in Jerri’s recipe), but there is a separate tradition of cole slaw made with vinegar and oil dressings. Some are sweet, others sour, but they all taste good to me.

A few weeks ago, I encountered an outstanding member of the vinegar and oil slaw family. We were visiting Carl, one of the ministers who married us a half century ago. He also was the husband of Jerri’s best friend at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. Carl served as president of Southwestern for several years and moved back to Winfield after his wife, Mary Lou, died.

When he bought a home near the college and remodeled it, he included a beautiful kitchen in the plans. The counters, sink, stove and oven seem to murmur, “Come on, Carl, try us out. We’ll help you make some wonderful foods.” Unfortunately, Carl thus far seems deaf to their invitations.

However, he does have a good taste in restaurants, one of which has now served us two excellent lunches. College Hill Coffee was started by Blenda Hoskinson in 2002 and now occupies a lovely bungalow near the college. As the name suggests, the restaurant offers a wide variety of coffees, espresso and other hot drinks plus cold drinks ranging from iced coffees to chocolate milk and Italian sodas.

But College Hill also makes excellent sandwiches, wraps and salads. When I ordered my sandwich, the young woman at the counter asked me which side I would like with it. As I scanned the list chalked on a slate, Summer Cole Slaw caught my attention. When I asked what it was, she said it was really good cole slaw. I am not sure, but she may have added softly that it was awesome. College Hill is that kind of college gathering place.

Trusting youth, I decided to try it. It is awesome and incidentally goes perfectly with the Grilled Cuban sandwich. As the friend of a regular and well-known customer I decided to ask for the recipe. Blenda reached for a cookbook on a shelf next to the counter, leafed through a few pages and showed me how they made that wonderful slaw. For a few seconds I feared that she was promoting a commercial cookbook until she explained that it was a recipe she included in Tried and True Recipes That Measure Up from College Hill Coffee.

When I asked how she came upon the recipe, she told me that she had begged it from a lady who brought the slaw to a potluck at the First Baptist Church in Augusta, Kansas. I tried to buy a copy of the cookbook, while Blenda tried to give it to me. Finally we compromised: I paid her what the book cost her, so I got a discount and we parted as friends. Jerri and I are both looking forward to visiting Carl and College Hill Coffee again.

If you happen to be passing through Wichita, Kansas, I suggest a side trip to Winfield, which is only forty-two miles distant. If you happen to be on your way to Tulsa or Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Winfield is actually on the way. You’ll see a vibrant college in a prosperous small city, and have a lunch to remember. And if they don’t have Blenda’s Summer Cole Slaw on the menu that day, chances are excellent that they will have an alternative that will be just as awesome.

INGREDIENTS:

2 packages cabbage cole slaw mix (from store)
2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 16 oz. package frozen peas
2 T grated onion
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar
1 T poppyseed
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cider vinegar

PROCEDURE:

Remove the dry outer layer from the onion, grate two tablespoons and put them into a large mixing bowl. Dump two packages of slaw mix, two cups of unsalted peanuts and a pound package of frozen green peas into a large mixing bowl. Mix everything together.

Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, sugar, poppy seed, mustard, salt and vinegar.

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and stir until everything is well blended.

Put the salad into the refrigerator to let the flavors meld for an hour before serving.

NOTE: I followed Blenda’s recipe exactly. After I made it, I realized that a restaurant might want a bit more slaw than a family. If you are making the slaw for a group of eight or fewer, I recommend cutting the recipe in half.

Marinated Beef and Sweet Potato Stir Fry

Once upon a time many years ago, I had the opportunity to enjoy Lake Superior from the deck of a thirty-seven foot sailboat built by Gene Newhouse in Ashland, Wisconsin. I was introduced to Gene by my fishing partner Earl who was an experienced sailor. Gene was always looking for people to help crew the boat, and he decided that I could be taught enough to be of some help.

We had some wonderful adventures. I remember almost continuous lightning and high waves one night off the shore of the Upper Peninsula and an afternoon, nearly becalmed, when the thermometer registered ninety degrees just off Outer Island.

My memory of one weekend sail involves food. Usually there were just two or three of us on the boat, but Gene took pity on a couple of students trying to hitch a ride when the young woman said that she was a good cook. The boat had a cranky alcohol stove which worked best for making coffee and tea to accompany steaks cooked on the charcoal grill hung over the rail, so we were happy to hand off the job to someone else.

She took one of the three steaks we planned to cook if the wind was light enough to let us grill, sliced it into thin pieces, chopped an onion, a pepper, some potatoes and apples, made a sauce with whatever she found in the galley and wowed us with a stir fry. It was probably the first stir fry made on board Gene’s boat, and it was certainly the first stir fry I ate that included apples in the mixture.

I was thinking about that stir fry one evening while I pondered what to cook for dinner. A sweet potato that I had bought on impulse a week or two earlier caught my eye and I found a piece of round steak in the freezer. My previous attempts at stir frying round steak were not entirely successful, mainly because I have trouble cutting the meat into really thin slices.

I wondered if marinating the meat and cooking it in the marinade before I added the vegetables would help. Chopping the sweet potato into a larger dice might help too, since they could be cooked a little longer than typical stir fry vegetables without getting mushy. I added other vegetables that we enjoy in stir fries, and the result was excellent.

INGREDIENTS:

For the stir fry:
1/2 – 3/4 lb. lean beef
1 T teriyaki sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 T stir fry sauce
3 T vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 large or two medium carrots (1/2-3/4 cup chopped)
1 small sweet potato (about 1 cup chopped)
1 sweet banana pepper
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
Cooking spray
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 1/2 T corn starch in 1 1/2 T cold water

For the rice:
1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

PROCEDURE:

Cut the beef into eighth-inch slices about one and one-half inches long and put them into a quart bowl. Make a marinade by adding the teriyaki, soy and stir fry sauces to the bowl along with two tablespoons of oil and the wine. Mince the ginger and add it to the bowl. Stir everything together so the meat is covered with the marinade. Set the bowl aside and stir the meat occasionally.

The meat should marinate for about a half hour. That’s enough time to enjoy a small glass of wine before you prepare the vegetables.

Scrape or peel the carrots and chop them into quarter-inch rounds. If it’s a large carrot, slice it in half lengthwise before chopping it. Put the chopped carrot into a small mixing bowl.

Peel the sweet potato, cut it into quarter-inch thick slices and chop the slices into pieces about an inch long and a quarter-inch wide. Add the sweet potato to the bowl with the carrot.

This is about when I start cooking the rice. Rinse a cup of long grain white rice and put it into a one quart saucepan. Add two cups water and a half teaspoon of salt and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and let the rice finish cooking for about twenty minutes while you finish preparing the vegetables. Check after sixteen minutes to see if all the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat if it has, and fluff the rice with a fork before serving. If not, continue cooking for another couple of minutes.

Wash and slice the banana pepper lengthwise into quarters. Remove and discard the white membrane and seeds. Chop the pepper into half-inch pieces and set them aside in a mixing bowl. Clean and chop the green and red bell peppers into similar-sized pieces and add them to the banana pepper. Remove and discard the outer skin from the onion, chop it into a quarter-inch dice and add it to the peppers.

If at least thirty minutes have passed, it is time to start stir frying. If not, have another sip of wine or just lean back and relax until the meat has finished marinating.

Coat the inside of a large skillet with cooking spray, put it over moderate heat and dump in the meat and marinade mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir the meat so that it does not stick or burn. Cook for three to four minutes, then add the carrots and sweet potato. Continue stirring and cooking for another six or seven minutes.

Add a tablespoon of oil with the peppers and onions to the skillet at this point and mix them with the other ingredients. Cook for about three minutes over moderate heat.

Dissolve the bouillon in the water and stir it into the meat and vegetables. Mix the cornstarch with the cold water and stir it into the skillet. Cook and stir the mixture until the sauce bubbles and turns clear.

Serve over the rice accompanied by bread and salad. Offer soy sauce in case guests want more salt.

NOTES: You can make your own sauce, as I sometimes do, but we almost always have soy, teriyaki and stir fry sauces in our refrigerator. The stir fry sauce I have been using recently is called Saigon Sizzle. It is spicier than some, so I thought it would accent the teriyaki sauce. If you make your own sauce, just remember to include the major taste groups: Salty, Sweet, and Spicy.

Do not omit the wine, as it adds flavor and helps tenderize the meat. The alcohol disappears during cooking.