Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vinegret

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably got so used to my misspellings, that you are thinking that I've even managed to misspell a title of a post. Ha-ha! Gotcha -- this time I did it on purpose. In Russia, "Vinegret" refers to the beet salad known as "Russian Salad" here in the US. Believe it or not, this salad is composed of about 30% beets and 70% other veggies, but you'd hardly notice by looking at it -- the beets have a way of dying everything magenta. I can't seem to find any information on the origin of this salad or its name. I am guessing that the name is the Russian spelling of the French "vinaigrette." This salad is in fact dressed with a vinaigrette type dressing used for many Russian salads, but in Russian, the word "Vinegret" refers exclusively to the salad made of beets.

I don't normally take pictures or write about what I make for lunch, but this salad came out so well, and the light in the kitchen was so wonderful that I decided to take a picture and post about it. I served it with the wild boar sausage that I got at Formaggio Kitchen on my way home from the gym. Good thing I don't stop by this store every time I go to the gym or it would defeat the purpose of exercising :)

I couldn't help laughing while stuffing this colorful salad into my ring mold. In Russia, this is as casual as food gets. You put a huge bowl on the table with some pumpernickel bread, butter, and herring (or sausages), and that's all the food styling this salad normally gets. But what won't an obsessed food blogger do to make it look more sexy for her readers?

Vinegret

Note on ingredients: Traditionally, cooks in Russia make this salad with canned peas. I find them really mushy and prefer to use frozen peas instead. I have also never heard of anyone using lemon juice to dress this salad. People either use vinegar or skip the acid ingredient all together. But although authenticity of my vinegret is questionable, the taste is not :)

Serves 4-6

For the salad:
2 medium beets (about 3" in diameter), washed, but not peeled
2 medium red-skinned potatoes (~ 3" in diameter), washed, but not peeled
1 large carrot, washed, but not peeled
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 large kosher dill pickles, finely diced
2 cups frozen peas

For the dressing:
2-3 Tbsp juice from pickles, or to taste
2-3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
1/3 cup sunflower seed oil (or olive oil)
Salt and black pepper to taste

For serving:
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, parsley, or dill
  1. Put beets, potatoes, and the carrot into a large pot, cover with cold water generously seasoned with salt, cover with lid, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially uncover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, but not mushy. They'll have to be removed from the pot at different times. Test them by poking with a sharp knife. After the water comes to a boil, the carrot takes 20-30 minutes, potatoes take 30-40 minutes, and the beets take about an hour. Note that the beets never get as tender as potatoes, so if the knife pierces them relatively easily, they are done.
  2. Cook peas in boiling water just until defrosted, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.
  3. Cool and peel the beets, potatoes, and carrot. Their skin will slide of pretty easily, so you don't need a peeler. Use a pairing knife for potatoes and carrot, and rub the beets with your hands to get the skin to slip off them.
  4. Cut all boiled vegetables into small dice and mix with onions, pickles, and peas.
  5. Dress the salad with pickle juice, lemon juice, sunflower seed oil, plenty of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ideally, let the salad sit in the fridge overnight or at least for a few hours to let the flavors blend.
  6. Before serving, stir in cilantro, dill, or parsley. I like to drizzle each plate with a little more sunflower seed oil -- it's so good, I never seem to get enough of this stuff.

14 comments:

Cyndi said...

That is sooo pretty! Yes, I thought you mispelled vinaigrette! That's a very interesting salad. Must be tasty.

Blue Plate said...

Now I know what to do with the beets in my fridge. Your salad looks great.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

My mom used to make this salad all the time. It's my (and my friends') favourite. One major difference: no pickles. The acidity of the salad comes from sauerkraut! Yes. And no dressing, but a bit of oil. My mom got this receipe from the source: she spent war years (that's the WWII) in Russia. And all my russian friedns concur: sauerkraut it is. Try it.

I do love your blog.

Sara

Helen said...

Hi Sara,

I've had it with sauerkraut before too and it's really great! The problem is finding great sauerkraut. I seem to have better luck with good quality pickles from a regular supermarket or Whole Foods. But if I can make it to the Russian store or make my own, I'd be all for adding it to vinegret.

Cheers,
-Helen

nicole said...

It looks so yummy!!! The presentation is so fantastic. :)

Anonymous said...

Helen,

Try to make your own. It's very easy, if a bit messy. And you can use that mandoline everyone is talking about.
Shredded cabbage, big bowl, salt, go into it with your hands and massage until juices run. Into a jar, an voila! It's ready in few days. You can add grated carrots, kimmel, wine, wine vinegar for different flavours. Believe me, since I discovered how easy it was, home made sauerkraut is a staple.

Sara

Helen said...

Hi Sara,

I did :)

Cheers,
-Helen

Lydia said...

What fun! This is completely new to me. Thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

Helen,

How embarasing... I marked YOUR recipe for sauerkraut to make as soon as my fridge gets emptier (is this a word?).
I feel awfull preaching like this. Still, keep them coming.

Sara

Helen said...

Hi Sara,

Please don't worry about it! With hundreds of posts on each blog, it's really hard to keep track of who tried what and cooked what. To tell you the truth, I am very new to making my own sauerkraut. I've only tried it this fall due to enormous amount of cabbage we got from our CSA. It was fun and really yummy! So, even though I've been eating Russian food since I was little, I haven't been cooking it nearly as long as I have French and Italian :)

Besides, my memory of some dishes can be faulty. I just found out from my Mom on the phone that she never used peas in vinegret, but would add sauerkraut whenever possible (either homemade or from a Russian store). She said she would even do both pickles AND sauerkraut. So, live and learn...

Cheers,
-Helen

Dianka said...

I have fresh beets at home and I've been thinking what I could make with them and now I know! This looks great!

Anonymous said...

The origin of the Russian Salad comes back from 1860's from Lucien Olivier, a chef in the famous Moscow's restaurant Hermitage. It was later adopted by his jelous assistant Ivan Ivanov, sho never seemed to capture the true essence of Olivier's special dressing recipe. However the salad gained huge popularity within Russia and worldwide as well. It originally contained caviar - adopted as a Russian ingredient at the ime. There are a lot of varieties of Russian Salad nowadays / meet is optional, sousage, shrimps, tongue and so on. However the main essense lies in specially prepared mayonaise dressing and raw vegetables. :)

Anonymous said...

The last posting is about "Olivier" salad- NOT vinegret.

m0nty said...

yeah, Olivier (Оливье) salad is completely different from vinegred.