Inside: colorful, healthy, and yummy Russian Vinaigrette salad you can make with your kids. It’s great for teaching knife skills and is a festive addition to your table any time of the year, but especially on New Year’s Eve.
Make this classical Russian salad with your kids for the next potluck party or any time you want to liven up your table. This bright red salad is a great conversation starter. It looks festive, and it’s also healthy. Beets, peas, carrots, potatoes: yum-yum!
If this recipe appears too time-consuming to you, consider this: the need to chop a pile of soft boiled vegetables offers a great opportunity to teach your child knife skills.
Not only do kids love working with a knife and feel immense pride in their new skills, but you will also be amazed at how handy it is when your kids can really help you in the kitchen. You will never regret time spent in the kitchen teaching your kids real-life skills.
The recipe in a nutshell: boil vegetables, chop them, mix in the rest of the ingredients, and enjoy.
What you need
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
oil (I’m using pumpkin oil today)
Salt and pepper to taste
What to do
- Beets, carrots, and potatoes are water soluble vegetables. It means they leak minerals and vitamins into the cooking water (which is often discarded). In order to preserve as much of the good stuff as possible, I cook my vegetables in an oven instead of boiling them in a pot. Wrap your vegetables in aluminum foil like in the picture below and bake in the oven at 375F.
- I have one aluminum foil bundle for the three beets and the other one for the baby carrots and potatoes. I remove my carrots/potatoes bundle in 40 minutes, leaving everything else in the oven for a total of one hour. If you are using regular carrots (not baby carrots), then I would leave them in the oven for about 50 minutes. If you are using bigger beets, increase the cooking time to 1hr 15 minutes. Beets are ready when a 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, as in the pic below, and keep the rest. The skin is full of nutrients and yumminess, so why throw it away.
- Here is the part my kids love. Dice everything: beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, and pickles. We tried cutting vegetables in squares, and we tried cutting them in stripes. We even tried cutting them in indefinable shapes, but the salad tasted the same each time. So whatever happens in your kitchen, it’s all good.
If this is your first knife skills lesson, consider the proper height (kids need to see what they are cutting), demonstrate the proper grip and fingers position of the supporting hand, and use a good knife.
- Drain the sauerkraut. Throw all the ingredients together and add your oil. The most popular choice in Russia is sunflower oil, but anything goes. I think flaxseed and pumpkin oils are a bit healthier. Stir the salad until the beets color all the ingredients bright red. You can decorate the salad with some fresh herbs. I like parsley and dill.
History of Vinaigrette
Vinaigrette is not just a yummy, colorful salad that is popular in Russia, it’s also a piece of history. Have you ever wondered why this Russian salad came to be known to the whole world by the French name “vinaigrette” (which, by the way, means a mixture of oil and acid)?
During the time of Tsar Alexander I, French cooking was all the rage in Russia and a French chef was employed in the royal kitchen. When this celebrated French chef saw the Russian “barbarians” pouring plain vinegar and oil on top of the Tsar’s beet salad, he exclaimed incredulously, “Vinaigrette?!” Everybody in the kitchen assumed that it was a French name for Russian beet salad and kept referring to it this way.
Another historical source describes the time Catherine II was served this beet salad chilled, as is usually the custom in Russia. Catherine II, who was a German princess, moved the plate away with disgust and said, “Vee, ne greto.” In Russian, it means that the dish was not properly warmed up, but if it’s said quickly, it sounds like “vinaigrette.”
Doesn’t Vinaigrette look lovely on a party table?
Vinaigrette is an absolute must for any celebration taking place in any Russian home. And not having it on New Year’s Eve is practically illegal in three-quarters of the Russian territory.
Beets have been around since Roman times and are now scientifically proven to work as a liver tonic and purifier for the blood. You heard that right! Beets contain a substance called betaine that encourages liver cells to get rid of toxins. Also, it contains pectin (fiber found in beets) that flushes toxins out of the body that have been removed from the liver. (Side note: that’s why juicing is not as beneficial as eating beets since you aren’t getting all that magical fiber).
Do you know who is in dire need of liver detox? You guessed it! The people living in the three-quarters of Russian territory that will be drinking an alcoholic beverage with their vinaigrette on New Year’s Eve. Bah-ha-ha!
You can file this bit of information for your own consumption. All your kids need to know about beets is that they are a superfood full of nutrients to make kids strong and healthy. Among many other things, beets improve blood flow, aid digestion, and support brain health.