Around this time last year, my husband and I were back in America. We had just sold all our remaining possessions in Seattle and were embarking on the second leg of our journey, a "farewell America" tour of sorts to New York, Maine, then down to Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and finishing in California.
In some cities (like New York or LA) we expected great food, but some others we had lower expectations for really ended up impressing us. Raleigh, NC was one such city that wasn’t on our radar as a foodie town, but ended up having so many gems. One brunch restaurant we tried was Beasley’s Chicken & Honey, which as you might have guessed by the name was elevated soul food, fried chicken & waffles the specialty. Of course we ordered what they were famous for, but we also tried a variety of sides, including a mac and cheese custard situation I am still dreaming about and a green cabbage slaw with roasted tomatoes and malt aioli which is what inspired this recipe.
At the time, I was apprehensive about the idea of tomatoes in a coleslaw. Roasted ones at that? In a slaw? I really had never had a coleslaw with tomatoes and was there a reason for that, I wondered? Like maybe it shouldn’t be done? I confessed all my concerns to both the waiter and my husband, who both assured me that I should try it if I was so curious and if I don’t like it we could always get something else, and basically it’s a $3.00 side, not a life partner, so we should move on with our lives and make a decision. The chicken and waffles were of course amazing, but what I was still thinking about days, weeks, and months later was that slaw! Creamy, crunchy, but simple, with the sweetness and smokiness of the roasted tomatoes, and super zingy from the Malt vinegar. I knew I wanted to try making my own version of this at home so I could enjoy those flavors again and again and again.
Although what I love about this recipe is its simplicity, it’s also infinitely adaptable. You could add in shredded carrots, shaved fennel, or whatever other onion or herb you fancy. If you have cherry tomatoes, you could absolutely use those instead. I opted for the larger tomatoes so they would be easier to de-seed, as I didn’t want a lot of tomato seeds in my slaw, so just keep that in mind if roasting cherry tomatoes. When assembling your slaw, all your ingredients should be chilled, and the tomatoes completely cooled after roasting to encourage a nice crisp, crunchy slaw. There is way less sugar in this slaw than would be traditionally in a coleslaw because I personally like slaws to be unmistakably savory and have also added a little yogurt to the dressing to reduce the amount of mayo without taking away any creaminess. Although technically the fennel seeds are optional, please don't skip them. They are really, really good in this.
The other reason I’m so excited about this recipe is because it’s part of another seasonal collaboration! Annie and Rebecca & Ruth invited me to another quarterly collab of food bloggers and this time the theme was TOMATOES, so I knew exactly what recipe I wanted to contribute. Late summer tomatoes, is there really anything better? It’s a fun group of bloggers, all bringing a different, creative dish to the virtual table, so if you’re on IG, make sure you check out the hashtag #wesaytomatoes for some awesome inspo and recipes featuring tomatoes in every way you can imagine. There are close to 70 of us participating so there are too many to link here, but here are just a handful that sound amazing to me:
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
1 large head (about 1 lbs) of cabbage, thinly sliced or 16oz pre-shredded
2 large beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, de-seeded and diced (about 1.5 cups)
2 tsp olive oil
pinch salt & pepper
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
FOR THE DRESSING
1/3 cup mayo
2 Tbs plain full-fat yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbs malt vinegar
1.5 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp celery seeds
1 Tbs fennel seeds
salt to taste
WHAT YOU'LL DO
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss your de-seeded diced tomatoes with the 2 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper and spread in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet or baking dish. Roast your tomatoes for 15-20 mins, until soft and caramelized, nearly charred on some edges. Remove and completely cool.
Put your fennel seeds in a dry pan, preheated on medium heat and toast for a few minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar & pestle and crush lightly, not to a powder but until many of the pods are broken. Set aside.
Combine your cabbage and scallions in a large bowl. Once the tomatoes are completely cooled, add those in.
To make your dressing, combine all the remaining ingredients (mayo, yogurt, malt vinegar, sugar, celery seed, & toasted fennel seeds in a small bowl, whisk until smooth. Add salt to taste. Pour the dressing over the slaw, toss to combine, and serve immediately.
I’m a crunchy slaw girl, as in, I don’t like it when it gets soft in the slightest, so I recommend consuming it within an hour, but my husband ate the slaw the next day after being refrigerated overnight and said the flavors were even better and the cabbage was still crunchy enough to his liking so I think it really comes down to personal preference.