Vinaigrette – a Russian Winter Salad

He is called Father Frost or General Frost. He lives in Russia, and he could be very cruel, especially to those who do not show proper respect to him. He has defeated many invaders, from the khans, to Napoleon, to Nazi Germany. He likes to decorate fields and forests, covering them in pristine snow and sparkling ice. And he is not gentle to those who have no means to keep warm and eat well.

Marc Chagal’s painting Over Vitebsk depicts just such a person, a wondering Jew, poorly equipped to travel on foot through towns and villages covered in snow. He is disproportionally huge, symbolizing the entire Jewish population of 19th century Russia, persecuted and destitute, with no place to call their own. Yet, in the middle of merciless Russian winter, the warmth of Chanukkah lights gave them a glimmer of hope.

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(Hanukkah, by Arthur Szyk 1948, collection of Yeshiva University Museum)

They did their best to dress up and rejoice on a holiday commemorating a great miracle of Chanukkah, but to prepare a festive meal, most of them needed yet another miracle – finding food. Latkes were made, of course, and mostly potato latkes, as potatoes were cheap and plentiful, but a seuda (a festive meal) should not consist of latkes alone!

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With typical ingenuity, they would gather the most easily obtainable root vegetables and beans, add either pickles or sauerkraut stored in cellars since summer, chop them up and dress them with some vinegar and maybe a little bit of vegetable oil, if they were lucky. In 19th century Russia, this nourishing and colorful winter salad became very popular not only among the poor, but also in the higher, even aristocratic circles. French was the language of the Russian nobility (the classic Russian poet Pushkin didn’t know Russian and spoke only French until the age of five), thus the salad acquired a name, Vinaigrette, from the French vinaigre (vinegar).

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What I start with, though, is mixing some olive oil with diced onion. My grandmother did it, and when I asked her for a reason, she explained that “it turns onions from angry to sweet.” Angry onions? But of course! They make you cry, don’t they? While your onions are improving their disposition, you can boil potatoes (unpeeled), carrots, and beets. There are many different variations of Vinaigrette, with red beans or green peas, with pickles or sauerkraut, and, most importantly, with or without vinegar that has given it the name. I prefer to include both read beans and green peas as they create a more complex combination of flavors and, at the same time, lend a color accent. I always use pickles (homemade, for recipe please click here), but sauerkraut is optional. This time, I just didn’t have it ready yet, and I find store bought variety overdone. And I do not use vinegar at all as I consider the taste of pickle quite sufficient to produce the same effect.

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Dice your veggies up, add your “not angry, but sweet” onion and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and don’t forget fresh parsley. Mix and let it grace your festive table for a happy and joyful holiday meal.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium or 1 large potato
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 medium or 1 large beetroot
  • 1 cup cooked red beans
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 3 -4 medium pickles
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • Optional: 1 cup sauerkraut
  • 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
  • A large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE

  • Mixed diced onion with olive oil, put aside.
  • Boil unpeeled potatoes, together with peeled carrot and beets. Let cool.
  • Peel and dice potatoes, dice carrot and beets. Dice pickles. Add red beans and green peas. Add onions and olive oil. Add sauerkraut, if desired. Add parsley.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Serve garnished with parsley sprigs or salad greens.

Happy Chanukkah – enjoy!

 

 

 

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40 Comments Add yours

  1. Art Hut says:

    Wow: Mouthwatering………

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much – glad you like it! Happy Holidays!

      Like

  2. I love the historical background story and the recipe too! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Samantha! Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much-you too :)x

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reblogging – Happy Holidays!

      Like

      1. You are welcome! Happy holiday to you too.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. randyjw says:

    I was going to ask you about the pickles; they look like a brand that used to be around that was the best, but they’re not sold anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I pickle my own, and I pickle everything in sight, with the exception of apples and watermelons, just because I don’t like them. The reason I didn’t include sauerkraut this time is that mine wasn’t ready yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. randyjw says:

        They look great! I love pickles! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Then make them – it’s easy.

        Like

  4. callmetrav says:

    This salad looks amazing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Trav, glad you like it! Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. callmetrav says:

        Thank you and I hope you have a great time aswell.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I love your blog! Reading the stories behind the recipes is wonderful! I’ll always have “angry onions” in my mind now because of what your grandmother said. Why is it that grandmas are always right? Happy Chanukkah! God bless you and yours.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Elizabeth! “Angry onions” sounds much better in Yiddish (there is an alliteration), and I can almost hear my grandmother’s voice whenever I cook for holidays. Happy Holidays and many blessings to you and yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This looks and sounds very delicious, Dolly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Irene! Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Happy Holidays for you too 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Anna says:

    Reblogged this on Annas Art – FärgaregårdsAnna and commented:
    Look at the paintings and the food! Wow! For comments visit their blog/Anna

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging, dear Anna! Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Anna says:

        Happy holidays to you too. It is a pleasure to reblog one of your posts 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Genius! You can’t beat good old vinaigrette!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, but what’s so genius about it? It’s just a good old vinaigrette, found in any Russian student or worker’s cafeteria…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. annwjwhite says:

    I’m a picky eater and rarely step away from my basics, but I love your page. You not only give the recipe but an insight into a culture that is bright with hope and promise. The traditions and family stories are written in a way that make an anthropologist rejoice. Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Ann! As long as I make a poet in you rejoice, I am happy. I truly admire your talent! Happy Holidays!

      Like

  10. This sounds SO yummy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you dear, and Happy Holidays to you and yours!

      Like

  11. This looks so interesting! Thanks for the great explanation. Happy Chanukah!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Happy and Joyful Chanukkah to you and yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I miss this salad so much!!!!! Should make it for my husband!:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your like and your comment – I am glad you like it!

      Like

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