Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Russian Vinaigrette Salad, and confusion with culinary terms

Vinaigrette is the oil-and-vinegar dressing so popular across the world for livening up salad leaves, right? Wrong, at least as far as the vast Russia is concerned. And Estonia, for that matter. Most deli counters in supermarkets here would sell something called 'vinegrett' (that's vinaigrette in the local lingua), and it's not the dressing they're selling, but this bright Russian vegetable salad. My version is possibly a bit beetier (khm? is that a word?) than others, but I simply couldn't resist the colour.

Note the Russian vinaigrette salad is lactose free/gluten free/vegetarian/vegan, so should suite a wide array of diets- in addition of being really bright and beautiful to look at. I served it on crisp dark rye bread triangles, but usually it is eaten just as a side salad.

Russian Vinaigrette Salad
Serves 10 as a side dish

300 g boiled potatoes
200 g boiled beets
100 g boiled carrots
300 g sauerkraut
200 g pickled or salted cucumbers
150 g red or yellow onions or spring onions

5 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp strong mustard
a generous squeeze of lemon juice*
coarsely ground black pepper

fresh herbs (e.g. dill, parsley, chives)

NB! All cooked/boiled vegetables must be cool before starting to prepare the salad.

Peel the potatoes, beets and carrots and cut into thin julienne sticks or grate coarsely. Cut the cucumbers into thin slices lengthwise, then cut into stick crosswise. Mince onion finely.
Mix gently all the vegetables (sauerkraut, beets, carrots, cucumbers, onions) in a large bowl, until well combined.
Season the vegetables with salt, then dress with oil, mustard and lemon juice. Check for seasoning - and add salt, sugar and/or pepper, if necessary. The vinaigrette salad should have a slightly sweet-and-sour flavour.
Put into the fridge for about an hour, so the flavours and colours could mingle.
Sprinkle generously with fresh herbs and serve.

* It is traditional to use vinegar, but we prefer the much milder lemon juice.

You may add any of the following ingredients:
* fresh or preserved green peas
* salted Baltic herring slices (place on top of the salad)
* chopped salted wild mushrooms (add about 25 g per person)
* chopped hot-smoked fish
* chopped fresh or pickled apples
* chopped bell peppers (add about 100 g to the above recipe)


K and S said...

very interesting! your salad looks really festive :) not to mention healthy.

Wendy said...

This looks stunning on those rye bread triangles! Wish I liked beetroot more now...

lobstersquad said...

well, if beety ain´t a word it should be , because it sounds great and iis perfect for describing your salad

Anonymous said...

Lovely little story and recipe, really.
I look at the picture and my mouth starts watering at the thought of bittersweet pickled gherkins and smoked herring. Unfortunately such ingredients are not easy to find in Spain (if not for the odd Russian shop).
Keep it up with your northern recipes!

Ibán ¿Te quedas a cenar?

Patricia Scarpin said...


Vinaigrette to us here in Brazil is something completely different, too!
It's what in English we call "salsa" - a mix of chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, etc. :)

Annemarie said...

First glance at the photo, without reading the post, made me think "Ooh, dark gingerbread cookies with seasonal-pink icing". Many children would be disappointed if they had bitten into one, thinking the same thing. :) The do look lovely, though.

K Allrich said...

What gorgeous color!

Zarah Maria said...

It's so pretty Pille. Why don't I make more things with beets? Yes, why don't I? I should...

Jeanne said...

Wow - that looks gorgeous! I also wish I liked beet more... But the idea of this topped with herring is hugely appealing :)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Great post. I never knew that vinaigrette was also a salad. It's so beautiful with the beets!

Anonymous said...

I love Russian vinaigrette salad. Do you Estonians eat it at Christmas time?

Shaun said...

Pille, darling ~ I adore your vinaigret salad. Beets always lend to a delightful colour scheme on the plate, but its combination here with sauerkraut and onions, along with the dressing balances out the beet's earth sweetness with citric acid. Of course, serving rye bread adds depth of colour and extraordinary flavour. Just wonderful.

Chibog in Chief said...

the first time i tasted this salad was in a restaurant in NY, i have already forgotten the name of that restaurant but not the taste of that russian salad..love the way you made that photo!!looks really appetizing :-)

Linda said...

wow look that that red! looks delicious. i adore your site... just found it today. beautiful photography!

Pille said...

K&S – thank you! Most festive foods are quite rich and unhealthy, so we decided to have something healthy to start with :)

Wendy – well, do give beetroot another chance!

Lobstersquad –I agree, beety sounds like a word to me. Beefy is a word, so why not beety??

Iban – thank you! I promise to keep the Northern recipes coming!

Patricia – thanks for that - very interesting!!

Annemarie – ehee :) I don’t use artificial colourings at all, so it’d be difficult to get such a ‘natural’ icing colour. But I think some kids would have actually like this salad – being so bright and such..

Karina – I agree!

Zarah Maria – yes, you should!!

Jeanne – I’m not so keen on herring, but beet and herring are a popular combination, so you should give it a go!

Lydia – thank you! I’m sure there are lots of culinary terms that mean a totally different thing depending where you use (and eat) them..

Matleena – no, it’s not a Christmas dish at all, it’s just that I happened to make it just before Christmas. Vinegrett is available all year round. Our own version, rosolje, is typically festive salad, however..

Shaun – I think I eat so much beetroot because of the colour, too. They brighten up my plate and palate :)

Dhanggit – thank you!

Linda - welcome to Nami-nami - so glad to hear you like what you’ve seen so far!

ScienceMel said...

I know my mum would look at me funny if I handed her your salad rather than her dressing to go with the greens. =)

Thank you for the cultural insights. That is one of the best features of your blogging and I hope it continue well into the new year.

MC said...

Gorgeous! Is it traditionally served on black bread as it seems to be on the pictures?
I would omit the sugar (which I find is a very Nordic addition to what I still consider a French dressing, French as in from France, not as French dressing in America, and you probably have to be used to it from birth in your salad to really appreciate it) but everything else looks very yummy and healthy. I love a plateful of color in the winter. It is the best pick-me-up!

MC said...

Sorry, just re-read the post and saw that my question was already answered.
All the best,