A classic Russian salad with a makeover, made with boiled beets and carrots mixed with diced pickles and white beans. A perfect side dish. Gluten Free and Vegan.
Going back to my roots today with this Russian salad recipe. For those of you who don’t know I was born in Russia and grew up in Australia + the US (and nope I do not still have that Aussie accent – that was gobbled up quickly by the heavier American accent).
While I spent my “public” life speaking in English and devouring pb&j sandwiches (jk, I never ate those), at home I was communicating strictly in Russian and enjoying all sorts of strange and foreign sounding delicacies – think caviar, herring, beef tongue.
And for a more hands on Russian immersion program I spent my summers in Russia with my maternal grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. The time was split between the impressive city of Moscow and the classic Russian countryside summer home – think full on fruit and vegetable garden, no running water, outhouse, the works.
It was a blast.
The highlight of all these trips of course was my time spent with my grandmother. We shared one common passion that kept us close always – food. We both loved food, cooking and anything to do with food.
I’ve recently started reading the book, Day of Honey, (one I already highly recommend), a memoir focused on food and the rituals of eating while uncovering the history and culture of living in Iraq and Lebanon. The way that author Anna relates the history of entire regions and countries to food and eating is amazing. And it has me thinking about my own roots and how food has played a part in my life.
I can essentially attribute my life’s passion – food to both my mother and maternal grandmother. My grandmother would come to visit us in Australia and in the US and the two of us would always work in unison in the kitchen. My grandmother was retired so she had the time to dedicate herself to exploring and experimenting with various cooking styles and techniques – even the more tedious and time consuming ones since she had the time.
We baked pizzas and pierogies, boiled soups and stews, chopped up fresh veggies for salad – everything. We worked in tandem together, as in I would make a mess and she would quickly clean it right up. Where food was concerned we never ran out of things to say to eachother. We would share cooking tips and techniques, new ingredients, new recipes, it was the best.
And so whenever I think of Russian recipes they always make me think of my grandmother and all our time spent in the kitchen.
Since food is always meant for sharing, nowadays whenever I’m craving Russian food I’ve got the perfect people to share it with – my parents.
There isn’t a ton of Russian cooking with them but there are certain classic recipes that my mom and I are always making – starting with this Russian salad. When you think salad what are you thinking first? Lettuce?
No lettuce in a Russian salad. Totally not needed. In my top 3 favorite Russian salads there is no lettuce to be seen (namely in this Russian salad, in a beet salad with walnuts and garlic, and the much loved Olivier salad).
The magic of a Russian salad is in the finely chopped boiled veggies. That’s where the flavor comes in. In this Russian salad we’re working with beets, carrots, pickled and white beans. This salad is normally made with boiled potatoes but we’re swapping those out for gigante beans.
Have you tried gigante beans? They’re basically cannellini beans on steroids – twice and size and way heartier and flavorful. Look out for them in the grocery store!
Now the boiling of the carrots and beets does take a while, but it’s hands off. Just boil those veggies, then peel and dice them. Dice the pickles and halve or quarter the beans. That’s it. Mix everything together, and you’ll have a big batch of this Russian salad.
Add olive oil or mayonnaise (vegan mayo for a vegan version) as the dressing and serve sprinkled with fresh dill (a favorite Russian herb).
This Russian salad always reminds me of home and my roots. Food has a way of making people (or mostly me) super nostalgic and I love using it as much own personal time machine right back to my childhood.
- 1.5 cup diced pickles 3-4
- 1.5 cup diced boiled carrots 3-6
- 1.5 cup diced boiled beets 2
- 1.5 cup halved white gigante beans 1 can, rinsed and drained (or cannellini beans)
- dill for garnish
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or vegan mayonnaise
- salt/pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and mix.