Giardiniera slaw with bacon

Coleslaw gets a lively makeover with giardiniera and bacon, plus some surprises, including olive brine.

Blue Kitchen
The oil from jarred giardiniera and olive brine kicks the flavors of this coleslaw up a notch.

Johnny’s Grill, an old school diner in our Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago, closed some time ago. In our nine or so years of living here, it had never seemed to be what you’d call hopping. For that matter, it had never enticed us in. Recently, it has reopened with a gently hipsterish makeover. Same formica counter and red vinyl stools, but the menu, still diner-ish and still reasonably priced, has gotten some cheflike loving.

Even better, Johnny’s has opened up into the vacant florist shop next door and turned it into a bar — The Flower Shop Bar & Lounge (For Every Occasion). Besides inventive cocktails, the bar serves Johnny’s full menu. So while we still haven’t actually set foot in Johnny’s, we’ve eaten their fun cooking a couple of times. One interesting side that comes with their fish sandwich is giardiniera slaw. Sampling their decidedly stripped down version — essentially shredded cabbage with the oil from jarred giardiniera, as far as we could tell — got us thinking about ways to dial it up a little.

First, for the record, this simple version was quite good — crunchy with a peppery flavor and kick. But I was after some visual interest, too. Chopped giardiniera added some spots of color (and more flavor and heat). I added bacon for all the obvious reasons.

As I experimented with this one night in the kitchen, tossing shredded cabbage, chopped giardiniera, giardiniera oil, olive oil and white balsamic vinegar together, it was tasting pretty good, but still needed another layer. Marion suggested some olive brine. Perfect.

Giardiniera Slaw with Bacon
Serves 3 to 4

4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon giardiniera oil (see Kitchen Notes)
1 tablespoon white balsamic or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive brine
1/4 cup roughly chopped giardiniera
3 strips bacon (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Toss cabbage, oils, vinegar, olive brine and giardiniera in a large bowl. Set aside to let flavors combine.

2. Place bacon in a cold skillet, heat over medium flame and cook until just crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. When bacon has cooled, crumble/tear into smallish pieces over the slaw. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings  with salt and pepper. Between the bacon and the olive brine, you may not need much salt. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Giardiniera. Hot? Mild? Oil? Not? We love the kick of hot giardiniera, but if you can’t stand the heat, opt for the mild. You’ll still get great flavor. Regarding the oil, you can find giardiniera packed in oil or in vinegar. This recipe is for oil-packed giardiniera. If you get the vinegar-packed variety, adjust your vinegar and olive oil by taste.

Want a vegetarian version? Skip the bacon and use a heavier hand with the salt. Done.

Related post on The Blue Kitchen: Quick, crisp Fresh Dill Pickles need no canning

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