I can’t recall one party or celebration from my childhood without this quintessential Russian salad. And I’m pretty sure that not having it on a New Year’s night is practically illegal in three quarters of Russian territory. I don’t know for sure what is the secret of its popularity, but I have my theory. Beets that have been around since Roman times are now scientifically proven to work as liver tonic and purifier for the blood. Beets contain substance called betaine that encourages liver cells to get rid of toxins. In addition, it contains pectin (fiber found in beets) that flashes toxins that have been removed from the liver out of the body. (That’s why juicing is not as beneficial as eating beets full as you are not getting fiber). And you know who is in dire need of some liver detox? You guessed it. The three quarters of Russian territory who will be drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage with their vinaigrette.
The Standard or Classical Vinaigrette recipe contains seven ingredients – beets, carrots, potatoes, pickled cabbage (or sauerkraut), pickles, onion, and oil. The Tsar Vinaigrette (Винигрет по Царски) includes an additional ingredient – herring. The Russian purest say that Classical and Tsar Vinaigrette are the only recipes that can be called Vinaigrette, every other variation is just a vegetable salad. However, every woman who has ever cooked Vinaigrette knows that it can only benefit from an occasional variation. Have some green peas? Throw it in. My mom likes to add meat, like bologna sausage. And my grandma always added leek and dill. Pickles and sauerkraut add enough saltiness for my taste, but if it’s not enough add some salt and perhaps some black pepper too. Nobody will complain, if you do.
3 medium beets
1/2 bag of baby carrots or 2 medium carrots
2 small potatoes
1 cup sauerkraut (to taste)
4 baby pickles
1 small onion
- Beets, carrots and potatoes are water soluble vegetables. It means they leak minerals and vitamins into the water they are cooking in, which is often discarded. In order to preserve as much of a good stuff as possible, I prefer to cook my vegetables in an oven instead of boiling them in a pot. Wrap your vegetables in aluminum foil like this
- I have one bundle for three beets and the other one for baby carrots and potatoes. Bake it in the oven heated to 375F. I remove my carrots/potatoes bundle in 40 minutes, leaving everything else for a total of one hour. If you are using regular carrots then I would leave them in the oven for about 45 minutes. If you are using bigger beets, increase the cooking time. Beets are ready when fork can slide in without much resistance.
- Peel potatoes. You can also peel beets, if you wish, but I usually just cut the top and bottom off like on the pic below and keep the rest. Skin is full of nutrients and yumminess, so why throw it away.
- Dice everything: beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, and pickles. I tried cutting them in squares and I tried cutting them in stripes, it tasted the same each time, so go with your personal style.
- Drain sauerkraut. I’m not a big fan, so I use sparingly.
- Throw it all together and add your oil. Most popular choice seems to be sunflower oil, but anything goes. I like to stir the salad until beets color all the ingredients bright red. You can decorate it with a bit of fresh herbs. I like parsley and dill.
Doesn’t Vinaigrette look lovely on a party table?