A Serendipitously Scrumptious Slaw
By Dennis Linden
Julia Costanza, Melissa’s retail sales representative in Pittsburgh, PA., demonstrates with her unique Baby Bok Choy Slaw that combining just a few common, yet distinctly tasting, fresh ingredients with a deceivingly simple dressing formula can produce a five-star presentation and flavor to match! And, if truth be told, there was not a whole lot of planning that went into this dish. Julia concocted the recipe on the fly during a store demo.
“This recipe came about out of sheer necessity,” Julia recalled. “I was setting up an in-store demo on cooking Baby Bok Choy with a chef friend. At the last minute, we decided that a raw application for the veggie should also be presented — and I love a good slaw. So, we threw together some ingredients we knew complemented each other, and, voila, this Baby Bok Choy Slaw was born. I have been preparing it ever since!”
Admittedly, this writer is not a big salad eater. Oddly, it’s one of the occupational hazards from working for so many years in one of the largest fresh produce wholesale terminals in the country – too much of a good thing, I guess. This slaw is absolutely delicious … times four, which is how many servings Julia’s recipe made for me to enjoy. Yes, I know her recipe says it serves six, but after the first delicious serving, that big bowl of slaw had no chance of being stretched that far, even by this avowed ex-salad eater!
Though the slaw’s ingredient list is short, and by Julia’s account spontaneous, the combination is still thoughtfully cohesive. The six items lend a distinctive taste to the mix that covers a spectrum of flavors. Tart, sweet, and spicy are all represented, working in unison to bombard the palate with goodness after goodness after goodness. The simple dressing contains another swath of contrasting flavors and textures that, again, just work. The slaw remained fresh, stored in the refrigerator for a few days, and gave me several delicious servings that improved as the flavors melded. Quick, easy, and delish!
Baby Bok Choy is a personal favorite that I have steamed, grilled, and sautéed as a standalone side dish, so that helped immensely with the personal salad aversion. Harvested during this cabbage variety’s early stage of growth, baby bok choy is sweet with just a slight cabbage-like flavor. The texture is much tenderer than a full-size head of Bok Choy. A staple in Chinese cooking, Bok Choy is packed with nutrients; they are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as a large concentration of manganese and zinc, which are core antioxidants. The other nice thing about this pint-sized leafy green is that the entire small head is edible and useable, no trimming required. As a slaw component, it adds a slightly sweeter accent and a more delicate texture over the denser traditional green cabbage slaw.
Julia Costanza celebrates her fourth year with Melissa’s this month. She works exclusively with one of the company’s largest retail accounts, a chain that operates 250 locations throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio. Julia visits them all, wearing several hats for Melissa’s as the job demands. She coordinates seasonal promotions and participates in in-store cooking demos. As a conduit between the account’s corporate merchandising staff and Melissa’s procurement and sales teams, Julia says that her degree in Public Relations Communications has undoubtedly been of great value in this ever-changing industry.
“Someone once told me that if you’ve worked in the fresh produce business, you can work anywhere — and I find a lot of truth in that,” Julia mused. “The fresh produce industry is so fluid and fast-paced with a bit of unpredictability connected to almost everything. So, what can go wrong, sometimes does, at least often enough to always be on the ready. While it is challenging to have to find a quick solution to a problem that you never saw coming, that’s also one of my most favorite aspects of the job – the satisfaction of having overcome whatever it was…yet again! Actually, it’s a fun kind of stress.”
When Julia’s workday is done, another one begins tending to daughters, two-year-old Vienna AND one-year-old twins Mia and Briella! With three in diapers, it seems the produce industry has prepared her well — for Julia, it’s just another fluid [very], fast-paced and unpredictable situation! Though a houseful of small ones can be demanding, Julia still finds time to indulge in her passion – cooking and dining.
“I would have to admit that our house is one big non-stop kid party. My husband, Marcus, is completely outnumbered but so very much loved. He was my college sweetheart; we met and married thirteen months later!” Julia explained, then added. “The girls can be a handful sometimes, but I always find a way to make kitchen time for myself. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to cook and bake! It’s my stress reliever, my love language, and my creative outlet. I enjoy searching for recipes that will challenge me to learn new techniques and try new flavor combinations. Hand in hand with cooking, Marcus and I love to experience Pittsburgh’s culinary scene. Pittsburgh has fantastic restaurants! I usually end up in conversation with either the chef or owner to learn their stories. I very much appreciate the passion that professional chefs put into their food.”
When asked who she would want to share this dish with at her own table if she had just one invite, Julia did not hesitate with her answer.
“My dad, Duane! He is my biggest fan and the first person to encourage my passion for cooking. When I was in high school, he gave me my first cooking magazine subscription. Then, he would take me to the grocery store to get everything I needed to make the recipes that I was interested in trying! He loves my cooking, though busy lives limit our time together these days. So, I would cherish the rare opportunity to make my dad something special in my kitchen — after all my littles are asleep, of course!”
Thanks for such a delicious recipe, Julia [and Duane] – keep on creating on the fly! Your slaw cut through my leafy green prejudice like a razor-sharp fillet knife!
Baby Bok Choy Slaw
1/3 cup light mayo
1/3 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons golden balsamic
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Agave
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 baby bok choy, thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, shredded
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1-3 oz. bag Melissa’s Dried Cherries, Tart or Bing
Dressing: whisk together all ingredients in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Set aside.
Combine baby bok choy, apple, carrot, onion and jalapeño in a large salad bowl, add in dressing, then toss to coat thoroughly. Plate individual servings sprinkled with dried cherries.