Too hot + cole slaw

Thus far, July 2011 has been outrageously hot. The weather in central North Carolina is miserably muggy, and though I hate to devote another summer blog post to temperature, it does affect my appetite and my menus. Who wants braised lamb shanks when the thermometer is pushing 100 degrees? Give me meats and veggies on the grill, a salad, and a large iced tea.

Cole slaw is a traditional summer dish, an item that regularly appears on picnic tables and pot luck suppers when temperatures soar. I made a vat of slaw on July 4, served alongside grilled hamburgers and corn on the cob, and though it was good, it wasn't great. And I know why. I used commercial mayonnaise.

Homemade mayonnaise is a revelation. Light and fresh and not too sweet, homemade mayo doesn't contain the preservatives that make most commercial varieties taste so, well, processed. Last night I made my favorite cole slaw again, but this time I used mayo made by hand. Tremendous difference.

The slaw recipe couldn't be simpler — it takes just a couple of minutes to put together after you've made the mayonnaise and cut the veggies. If you aren't confident about homemade mayo, read the label of the commercial varieties before you by, opting for the one with the fewest ingredients, all of which should be easy to identify and pronounce. I'm a fan of Duke's mayo in a pinch.

Oh, and please don't leave the celery seed out of the cole slaw, as it changes the flavor quite a bit.

Traditional Cole Slaw
Makes about 6 servings

1 1/4 cups homemade mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 heaping tablespoon celery seed
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 head green cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded
3-4 carrots, grated

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve. Add the mayonnaise and celery seed. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Combine the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and blend well. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving, allowing the flavors to meld.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Makes about 1 1/4 cup

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon Coleman's dry mustard or prepared Dijon mustard
1-2 large pinches sugar
2 egg yolks*
about 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, salt, dry mustard, and sugar in a bowl and whisk to dissolve the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Begin whisking these ingredients at a fast pace,
then slowly — drop by drop — add the oil. The mixture will thicken and lighten in color, at which point you can pour the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly.

Homemade mayonnaise will keep in the refrigerator for about one week.

* Consuming raw egg yolks increases your risk of Salmonella or other food borne illnesses.