Винегрет (“Vinaigrette”) – Russian Beet Salad
It may not sound particularly appetizing, but this is a light, delicious, and incredibly good-for-you salad which is also very easy to make. The only prep you need is to peel, boil and chill a few vegetables! The name comes from the French word for “vinegar” because of the salad’s slightly tangy flavor, but the interplay of tastes in this salad is more like sweet and sour because of the addition of beets. This salad goes well with practically any dinner dish.
There is a big debate about whether or not the beets should be allowed to color the rest of the vegetables and how to prevent them from doing so. Restaurants will usually cover the beets in oil to prevent coloration; however, this has no effect on taste and I find it a completely unnecessary step. My mother loves to add a lot of green peas to the dish, I prefer only a little, and some people choose not to add them at all – it’s up to you.
Recipe: (Serves 4)
- 2-3 potatoes
- 1-2 beets
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- 125g Sauerkraut (prepackaged)
- 2-3 large pickles (or more small ones)
- canned peas (optional)
- vegetable oil
Rinse potatoes, beets, and carrots; place in a deep pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and keep boiling until vegetables are finished (it’s easy to stick a fork into them). I recommend boiling potatoes separately from beets and carrots: potatoes take at least 40 minutes to cook this way (although you can speed up this process by poking them with a fork and placing in the microwave for 4 minutes); beets and carrots take only about 20 minutes to boil.
Once vegetables are done, cool them in some cold water. Peel and dice them once cooled. While vegetables are cooling, chop the onion and dice the pickles.
Finally: Mix potatoes, carrots, pickles, onions, peas (if using) and sauerkraut together with a bit of vegetable oil in a bowl. Add beets; salt and mix again.
Salad will keep in a covered bowl up to 5 days.
Гречневая Каша (Buckwheat Porridge)
This is a traditional and delicious Russian dish. It is frequently served as a side dish for all kinds of meat and fish mains, but it is also sometimes eaten on its own or with butter and/or milk, especially for breakfast. This is one of my favorite Russian foods and I highly recommend giving it a shot. You can buy buckwheat porridge in most Russian or “European Food” stores if you can’t find it in regular store near you.
Carefully sift and check the buckwheat for any rocks or other inedible bits. Rinse it several times. Although the package may claim that you do not need to check or rinse the buckwheat, I would advise you to do it nonetheless – I have had too many bad experiences of biting into a rock because I was too lazy to take 5 minutes to check the uncooked grains!
Optional: Some Russian cooks like to toast the porridge in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes, until it turns golden. This can intensify the flavor, and if you can spare the time, I do recommend that you try it – I find that when cooked this way, the dish is much more distinctive and delicious. Toasting the porridge also shortens the subsequent boiling time!
Boil water in a large pot: 2 cups of water to every cup of porridge. Salt. Add the buckwheat to the boiling water and bring to a boil again. Cook for 6-8 minutes (or 15-20 minutes if you didn’t toast it). Turn off the heat and let stand covered for another 10 minutes. Stir.
Buckwheat porridge tastes great after being left to sit for anywhere from an hour to overnight, but it can also be served right away. Serve it hot as a side dish or snack, or with a cold glass of milk.