Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vinegrette Salad

Blog's Category: USSR-Era Cuisine, My Staple Food

Vinegrette is very, very familiar dish for those from USSR. Being made from a very affordable and accessible products (remember, that were times of total food deficits in "thriving" soviets groceries) this salad was truly day-to-day folk's dish. 
Named "Vinegrette" it is not a vinegrette as salad dressing as you may think, it is rather has meaning of "melange" or "medley" or something made of many colorful chopped up ingredients.

What it is
It's a cooked and chopped up root vegetables with addition of legumes, usually green peas or beans, and some pickled ingredient such as pickles or sauerkraut. Whole thing is dressed with olive oil.

How it's served
Vinegrette can full rights to be counted as separate, one-meal dish. It is a great food to be served at friends or family gatherings or just to be included in your own everyday menu. I like to have it as my supper, with some crunchy stuff on a side (think "chips", healthy style to stick to healthy menu).

Taste Description
It tastes rather soft and mild with crunchy-sour notes (pickles). It is full of subtle delicate flavor root vegetables have. It is your choice to add some kick to it by adding pepper, more salt or more acidity (vinegar).

Some side comments
This dish seems to be one of a kind dish, I could not think of any similar one from another cuisines. Let me know, please, you your native cuisine has something close to it. Being very unusual to all-american cuisine, I'm glad that my kids which were grown up here, in US, have developed taste for Vinegrette - it is one of the gems of Eastern European cuisine in my opinion.

How to store it
It will be same good (if not better!) kept in a fridge for a 3-4 days.

There definitely should be potato, beets, carrots, some pickled ingredient and some legumes. Among known variations:

- cooked beans can be use in place of green peas (any kind of beans)
- chopped up sauerkraut in place of pickles
- onion is optional
All other variations is a matter of your fantasy and creativity, so - be brave! 

- If you do not have sweet onion on hands, use regular one but cut amount in a half.
- I like to cook root vegetables in advance - day before. Drain them and keep unpeeled in a fridge until the next day.

For about 7 servings:

4 medium potatoes
4 medium carrots
2 orange-size beets
5-6 pickles (about 6" long)
1/2 sweet (Vidalia) onion
1 can of green peas
2 tbs vinegar (optional, in case your pickles are not sour enough)
1/2 tbs sugar (optional, in case beets are not sweet enough)

- First, cook your root vegetables: cook whole unpeeled beets in a simmering water for 2 hours (or longer) until they are very soft and completely cooked. In a separate pot, cook whole unpeeled potato until fully cooked (about 40 minutes). Peel carrots and cook them in a boiling water until soft for about 20-30 minutes.

- Meanwhile, chop your onion and pickles (about 1/2")
- Let your cooked root vegetables to cool down a bit, peel them (with exception of carrots of course) and chop them same size as onion and pickles.
- Let your root vegetable to cool down completely. In a big mixing bowl, mix them with onion, pickles and green peas. Do not forget to add salt and olive oil.

- Taste it. If you think it is too mild for you - add vinegar and sugar. Add some black pepper if you want some spiciness to it.

- Enjoy right away or let it stay in a fridge for an hour for flavor to develop even more! Longer it will be kept in a fridge - brighter salad's color will be. Beets will color everything (even pickles and peas!) with its powerful fuchsia hue. Yes, your fingers will be red too, but it will come out fast.

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