Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cuban Coleslaw

There are a total of 37 ensalada (salad) recipes in The Project. For those of you that are familiar with Cuban salads, you won’t be surprised to read that 30 of the 37 have mayonnaise as an ingredient. Most of those 30 also have cream cheese in them, along with the mayo.

The remaining seven? One is a Caesar salad, so you end up making your own mayonnaise in the dressing; one uses bacon grease; one is made with prunes and cream cheese; one is a Chef salad with tons of meat and cheese and the last two have non-flavored gelatin, which is just gross.

Weight Watchers and The Project – the irony.

Recipe #322: Ensalada de Col Cruda (Coleslaw)

ingredients for coleslaw

My dad’s family was having a get together to celebrate birthdays and spend some time catching up. It was a wonderful family reunion that brought us to hang out with cousins I grew up with, but unfortunately hadn’t kept in touch with once we all started going out with friends more and family less during high school and the years that followed.

I figured that a salad would go well with anything, and I started with the first salad recipe in the chapter – Cuban Coleslaw.

What makes this a Cuban coleslaw? I mean, slaw is slaw, right? Well, it has red peppers in it, which I’ve never seen in regular coleslaw, so that right there, was my first clue in knowing this was going to be different. The second clue? I think I uncovered the secret Rio Cristal Restaurant salad dressing.

I don’t know if the Rio Cristal dressing is secret, but it sure is my favorite. I can never tell if it’s a French or a mix of French and Thousand Island, but it’s always brought to you when you sit down, in all it’s plastic squeeze bottle glory, and it is just so addicting.

But, let me tell you about the coleslaw process – it’s easy and it can be made in the morning before a picnic or BBQ lunch. Travels well and receives great reviews.

Nitza asks you to shred up the cabbage in thin strips, but I went with the Publix Coleslaw mix of green cabbage, carrots and red cabbage, already shredded and perfectly portioned for this recipe that serves twelve (or much more, as I experienced).

You mix the coleslaw with sour cream and a sliced red pepper.

red peppers in the coleslaw

Here’s where the secret Rio Cristal dressing comes in –

You osterize (I used my food processor) some onion, salt, mustard, sugar, mayonnaise, oil and vinegar until well blended and smooth. You add that to the coleslaw, sourcream, red pepper mix.

adding in the secret rio cristal dressing

You mix it well and put it in the fridge until it’s time to go. And, in true Cuban lady fashion, you decorate it with thin red pepper rings for effect. Lovely.

cuban coleslaw

My dad’s cousin, Maria (whom I call Aurorita), found her baking gene and turned it into a business, Home Baked Sweets.

She made Tio Manolin’s cake (her dad), Tia Josefina’s cake (her aunt), and even Caitlyn’s cake (her granddaughter).


We had a great time. My daughter was so confused by all the new family members she met that day and asks me to explain the connections over and over again. At the end of the day, the answer is still the same: We’re one big family that doesn’t see each other enough and wishes we could see each other more. You’ve got cousins all over the place, in different cities and countries and it’s important to keep in touch. Catching up with everyone was really good – staying in touch is even better.

happy birthday!

Luckily, we have ways to stay in touch now where we didn’t years ago. I’ve got my cousins on Facebook and we keep in touch with pictures, IM and email. It helps us keep up to date with the little details – which surprisingly, we didn’t even get into when we were little kids.

Times evolve, and so do we. But, as has been made clearer and clearer with each recipe I tackle – good recipes don’t change, they are meant to be passed down.

Because of The Project, I had a chance to hear stories of my great-grandmother’s cooking and signature recipes. I would have never known about her way of making breadcrumbs from stale Cuban bread or her knack for cleaning out the fridge by making croquetas with anything that needed to be consumed that day – with her own meat grinder that had a clamp that would be attached to the end of her kitchen counter.

These are the memories I want my kids to have of their days growing up. These are the memories that shape who they will be in the future.

All this from Cuban coleslaw and the secret Rio Cristal salad dressing. Amazing what food can do!

1 comment:

  1. Just tried your slaw as I too had been looking for a recipe. There is a local Cuban restaurant that serves awesome croquetas on top of their slaw. The only difference is they use the purple cabbage. Its a distance away so I thought Id look around and see if I can master this myself. I made the slaw today and it was awesome. Thank you for posting this!