Spice up your sides

Published June 28, 2006

Store-bought potato salad and coleslaw are convenient but could taste better. A little doctoring can make you forget mama's homemade. Almost.

To pump up the flavor, think fresh herbs. Chopped flat-leaf parsley, dill, basil, tarragon, chives and cilantro, or a mixture of a few, add freshness to sometimes-cloying potato salads. Spicy or whole-grain mustards also add interest.

Black and green olives, chopped hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced radishes, celery and carrots are also appropriate additions. Tarpon Springs restaurants have made famous the Greek salad with a scoop of potato salad in the middle. How about adding a little feta cheese to your potato salad?

Often, we find store-bought deli coleslaw too soupy and sweet. To bring balance, add freshly grated carrots and/or more grated cabbage. Sliced scallions, radishes or julienned red, green or yellow peppers introduce color, flavor and crunch.

Herbs enliven coleslaw also. Parsley, chives and dill are especially nice. Look through your spice cabinets: Poppy seeds, paprika, curry powder and ground ginger - though not all at once - give plain closeslaw a lift.

For an Asian twist, mix in chopped water chestnuts, a drizzle of sesame oil and a handful or two of chopped roasted peanuts. A shake of cayenne brings the heat.

Don't forget fruit, such as pineapple chunks, or raisins or other dried fruits. To make a tropical coleslaw, drain off excess dressing and add chopped mango and fresh mint.