I sometimes forget that I grew up on Russian food. Living in Toronto, a truly multicultural city, each meal is often influenced by a different cuisine. A single dish can be a fusion of ingredients and flavours from different parts of the world. Sometimes I don’t even notice the origin of the flavours, they’ve become so familiar. The food I grew up on tastes more foreign than food influenced by foreign cultures, it’s a little disappointing.
When I do work up the courage to cook something Russian, this lovely salad is at the top of the list. Many Russian salads are very rich and creamy, dressed with either sour cream or mayo. This salad, called “Vinaigrette”, is probably named after the French word, as it is dressed with olive oil and lemon juice instead of mayo. It’s bright in flavour and in colour, and is a refreshing change from the usual Russian fare.
I’ve had many great versions of Vinaigrette in the past, and some not so great. My mom’s is my favourite, naturally. The key here is balance. Beets, carrots and peas add sweetness, and are tempered by tangy pickles and sauerkraut. It’s important to make sure that all of the pieces are cut the same (small) size so that each bite will contain all of the different veggies and will taste balanced. This makes a huge difference. Dressing is adjusted to taste, as are the proportions of the vegetables, based on the natural presence of sweetness and tang. This version is based on my moms. Every time she makes it, it turns out slightly different, but always delicious.
- 2 parts waxy potatoes
- 2 parts cooked beets
- 1 part cooked carrots
- 1 part pickles
- 1 part canned peas
- 1 part sauerkraut
- 1/2 part green onion
- lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste
- Boil potatoes, beets, and carrots, with skins on, until tender (but not mushy). The same pot can be used but carrots will be done first, followed by potatoes, and finally beets. Take them out accordingly.
- Once vegetables have cooled, peel skins, and cut into pea sized cubes. Cut pickles into similar size/shape. Slice green onions.
- Toss all chopped veggies, peas, and sauerkraut in a large bowl.
- Season generously with freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil.