Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The following is a recipe for a classic Russian beet and potato salad called "Vinaigrette." It calls for cooked beets, potatoes, carrots, and pickled cucumbers and cabbage as main ingredients and as a result has a very earthy, sweet but tangy taste. The beets release their juices and color the salad a rich mauve. The root vegetables are boiled ahead of time.
Don't be afraid to use beets in your dishes.
Cooked beets are soft, buttery, and earthy. The most notable thing about them is their magnificent color - toss them against some greens and add some brightness to a salad, add them to a potato salad to get an interesting hue, or simply serve them as a side, cut in round slices, seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil.
To prepare the beets for this or any other salad calling for cooked beets, simply cut off the long whiskers at the bottom and stems and leaves at the top. Put the beet roots in a pot, cover with water, and bring it to boil, whole and unpeeled. Let them simmer for about 30-40 minutes (if medium; larger beets can take up to 50 minutes; always test with a knife - if they are not yet done you will feel resistance, if they are done it will go through like butter). Drain and let them cool. Then simply peel, chop and serve.
Note on pickled cabbage (similar to sour kraut): you can get pickled cabbage at a Russian or Polish food store. However, if you do not live in proximity to Brooklyn's Brighton Beach or do not have a trusted supplier of pickled cabbage like one of my two readers (my mom), try a deli with a good pickled vegetable selection.
In a pinch, bagged sour kraut you see in a supermarket next to bratwursts (e.g. Boar's Head) will do, however commercial sour kraut tends to be quite soft and soggy. Good pickled cabbage should be crunchy, and will complement the soft texture of the root vegetables in this recipe.
Vinaigrette Beet Salad
You will need:
2 medium beet roots
3 medium carrots
4 medium all-purpose potatoes
2-3 kosher dill pickles
1/4 cup pickled cabbage (sour kraut)
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place carrots and potatoes, whole with skin on, in a pot large enough to fit them. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer covered, until cooked, 20-30 minutes. At the same time, remove the whiskers and the stems and leaves from beets. Place beets in a separate pot, cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer covered, 30-40 minutes or until done. When the vegetables are done, drain them and let cool. Once cooled, peel them (peeling them after cooking helps retain their flavor, and for beets - their juices). Use a pairing knife rather than a vegetable peeler (the latter will take off a greater amount of the flesh than when vegetables are raw).
2. Chop potatoes, beets, carrots, and pickles into 1/4 inch cubes and place into a bowl. Add cabbage and chopped dill. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, and dollop the mustard into the bowl. Toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand for about 10 minutes to let the beets color the salad mauve. Toss again before serving.