This Nifty Technique Improves the Texture of *Any* Slaw

July  6, 2017

More than anything, my recent Paloma Slushie experiment reminded me that I hadn’t been spending enough time with Julia Tursen’s Small Victories.

So I packed it, along with the Therm-a-rests, sleeping bags, bug spray, and headlamps, camping over the July Fourth weekend. During those four days in the Adirondacks, I read it whenever I could—by the fire, at the picnic table, on the fishing rock—and, as is often the case when I flip through SV, I dog-eared many pages, drafted a to-make recipe list, and made a grocery list.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

I returned home eager to make a cabbage slaw using a technique Julia employs in her Radicchio Slaw with Warm Bacon Dressing recipe: massaging the shredded radicchio with salt and olive oil before dressing them. The technique, she notes, works with kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and even dandelion greens.

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I know, I know—massaging kale: you’ve all done this. But have you massaged with both salt and olive oil? And have you ever massaged other greens, such as cabbage? I had not.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

I gave the technique a go on a head of shredded napa cabbage and couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The cabbage, with some aggressive squeezes—Julia encourages really scrunching the vegetables—softened right up, visibly shrinking in size, and becoming more saturated in hue. This technique serves the same purpose as the salting-and-rinsing method described in The Slanted Door cookbook, which is to help the shreds of cabbage relax, allowing them to better absorb the flavor of the dressing, be it miso-carrot, sesame, or buttermilk. Julia’s technique, which requires no rinsing, is easier and works just as well.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Here I’ve tossed the cabbage with a simple Thai dressing—fresh lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha—and a ton of chopped cilantro, scallions, and vegetables. It comes together in a snap, and tastes light and summery. I’ve added shredded chicken to make it more of a meal, but it could work as a side salad, too, a cooling accompaniment to grilled fish or steak.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

A Few Tips

Add more crunch: Here, crisp carrots and bell peppers offer a nice contrast to the soft cabbage and herbs, but many vegetables could work: thinly sliced snap or snow peas, or julienned jicama, kohlrabi, and green papaya.

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Top Comment:
“More and more over the years, I feel that I already have enough recipes for three lifetimes and what I really crave is techniques to improve the recipes I already make. So, many thanks!”
— Gardener-cook

Keep it vegetarian or vegan: Omit the fish sauce and make a homemade no-fish sauce. Leave out the chicken and add nuts, such as toasted cashews and peanuts, or cubes of baked tofu.

Change it up: Make the dressing slightly creamier by stirring in a few tablespoons of unsweetened coconut milk. Give the salad a sweet element with the addition of julienned mango. Add more herbs or substitute Thai basil or mint for the cilantro. Omit the carrots or peppers and use julienned cucumbers.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cassie Roth
    Cassie Roth
  • AntoniaJames
  • Gardener-cook
  • Fresh Tomatoes
    Fresh Tomatoes
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


Cassie R. December 17, 2018
How do you make the chicken?
AntoniaJames July 14, 2017
Another massaging technique to consider: massage salt, spices and citrus peel into onions before quick pickling. Ottolenghi does this; in fact, he does not add water to his quick pickling brine.
These are sensational, as you would expect
Highly recommend. ;o)
Alexandra S. July 15, 2017
ooooh, that looks SO good. I am so going to try this. Wish I had know this recipe/technique over the winter, when I was up to my eyeballs in CSA sweet potatoes :) Thanks for sending!
Gardener-cook July 14, 2017
More and more over the years, I feel that I already have enough recipes for three lifetimes and what I really crave is techniques to improve the recipes I already make. So, many thanks!
Alexandra S. July 15, 2017
I totally agree! More and more, I love technique books/videos/articles.
Fresh T. July 7, 2017
How do you always know exactly what I want to eat?! :) Yuum! Thanks Ali!
Alexandra S. July 7, 2017
Thank you Dana :) :) :)