Eastern European Beet Salad

There is a culinary tradition in Eastern Europe to eat beets with sour cream. Borscht, for example, is always served with a dollop of sour cream. This salad is no exception. However, if you’d rather not eat sour cream, you can sub in mayo or yogurt. I even tried this with some cottage cheese I’d pureed, with good tasting results. What caught my eye in this recipe is the addition of prunes, though any dried fruit would work. For example, if you made this with golden beats, you could use dried apricots. This should chill before serving, but don’t serve it cold, unless it’s the middle of summer.

1 lb or so beets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c chopped walnuts, or other nuts (peanuts are good here)
1/4 c chopped prunes (soaked for 20 minutes in hot water if hard)
3 – 4 T sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh, chopped parsley, for garnish, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Wrap beets in foil, place on a baking sheet and roast until tender, when a knife can easily pierce the root. Or put in a covered casserole dish with enough water to cover the bottom of the casserole. You could also try steaming them. When they’re cool enough to handle, slip off the skins, if you like, and shred coarsely or chop or dice. Put into a serving bowl.

2. To the beets add the garlic, walnuts, and prunes (soak them while the beets are roasting). Toss gently. Add 3 T of the sour cream along with some salt and pepper. Toss again. Add more sour cream if you think it’s needed. Taste for seasonings and chill before serving. If using parsley, sprinkle it over the salad before serving.

Potato Salad with Sauerkraut

This is the recipe to make for people who claim not to like raw sauerkraut and the recipe to make for people who love to eat raw sauerkraut. ‘Nuf said.

2 lbs or so potatoes
4 oz bacon, or use 2 T vegetable oil if not using bacon
1 c chopped onion
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 t brown sugar, optional (use for sauerkraut dislikers)
1 1/2 c sauerkraut, drained
black pepper, to taste
salt, if needed
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish, optional, but adds a nice dash of color

1. First you need to boil the potatoes. You can cut them into potato salad-sized pieces or just halve or quarter them, depending on their size. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Boil until just tender. Drain, reserving about 1/2 c of the cooking liquid. (Save the rest for stock or other cooking purposes.) If necessary, further chop up the potatoes. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover to keep them warm.

2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove rashers and drain on a paper towel. Crumble and add to potatoes.

3. Drain bacon fat, leaving 2 T in the skillet. Sauté the onion until softened. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Stir in the vinegar, oil, and brown sugar, if using. It should come to the boil fairly quickly. Pour this over the potatoes and toss to coat. Add the sauerkraut, stirring to combine. Season with black pepper. If the mixture seems dry, add some of the reserved potato water. Taste and add more vinegar or oil if you think it’s needed. You may even want to add some salt. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

Slow Roasted Onions

A Sicilian speciality, from the city of Siracusa, with one difference. In Siracusa, the onions are roasted whole, whereas in this recipe the onions are sliced, with their skins still on, brushed with oil and roasted until caramelized. Just great! I always have these in the fridge now and bring them out for meals. They make a terrific cooked salad or side, and are also great on burgers or in sandwiches. There is a variation to the recipe that is also delicious. It follows the main recipe. A word of advice: make sure your knife is sharp enough to cut through the onion skins. Onion skins are slippery and one can easily cut oneself (this is from personal experience).

2 – 3 onions
2 T vegetable oil, divided, plus extra for greasing baking sheet
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh chopped herb or 1 t dried herb
1 t red wine or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line the baking sheet with parchment or foil (if using foil, lightly oil it).

2. Cut off the ends of the onions. Keeping the onions skin intact, slice the onions crosswise into 1/2″ slices. Lay the onion slices on the baking sheet. Put the vegetable oil in a small bowl. Brush the onion slices with half the oil.

3. Bake for an hour. Remove from oven. Gently turn slices over. Brush again with remaining oil in small bowl. Return to oven and bake for another half hour. Transfer to a shallow serving dish and allow to cool. Remove onion skins and any dried-out onion rings.

4. Combine the extra-virgin olive oil, water, garlic, herb, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spoon over onion slices and serve.

Variation:

After the first hour, when you remove the onions from the oven and flip them over, brush them lightly with some oil, then drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the slices. Crumble some dried oregano or thyme or other dried herb over them and season with salt and pepper. Return to oven and roast another half hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Citrusy Apple and Kohlrabi Salad

This is quite a refreshing and bracing salad. There is no oil in the recipe: citrus juice, salt and a dash of cayenne make up the dressing. The flavor of the kohlrabi and apple come through more cleanly as a result. Serve alongside heavier or fatty meat dishes for a balancing repast.

1/2 c lime, lemon or orange juice; or a combination
1 t salt
dash of ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 c (peeled) diced, shredded or julienned apples
4 c peeled diced, shredded or julienned apples
2 – 3 T fresh, chopped herb(s), optional

1. Combine citrus juice, salt and cayenne pepper in a serving bowl. Stir to dissolve salt.

2. Add prepared apples and kohlrabi. Gently toss to combine. Stir in chopped, fresh herb, if using. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Sautéed Apple and Beet Salad

In this really good, warm ‘salad’, the two main elements, apples and beets, are sautéed separately, but assembled on one serving platter, finished with a lemon-horseradish sauce. In this way the apples retain their color, unless you like a pink and red palate. Pears would work here, too, but they should be a bit under ripe or they’ll fall apart. In lieu of beets, try celeriac, kohlrabi, turnips, winter squash. The white roots won’t make for as colorful a presentation as beets or winter squash, but the salad will still taste good. If you’re making a large batch, increase ingredients as needed.

2 medium-sized beets
2 medium-sized apples
1 T vegetable oil, or use all butter, plus more if needed
1 T butter, or use all vegetable oil, plus more if needed
2 T lemon juice
1 t prepared horseradish; or prepared mustard (grainy mustard is good here)
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh chopped herb, such as parsley or chives, for garnish, optional

1. Peel beets, if you wish. Dice. Set aside.

2. Just before you begin the sauté, quarter apples, core, then slice each quarter into halves or thirds.

3. Combine oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat until butter has melted and still a little foamy. Add apples slices and sauté until they’re a little browned but still retain their shape. Remove from skillet to a plate and keep warm.

4. Add more oil and/or butter to the skillet if needed. Stir in the beets and sauté until hot and a little tender. Keep a bit of crunch (or not).

5. Remove from skillet and put them in the middle of a serving plate. Arrange apple slices around beets.

6. Put skillet back on element and add lemon juice and horseradish. Bring just to a simmer, scraping up any of the ‘fond’ on the bottom of the skillet and stirring to combine with the fat left in the skillet. Pour over the beets, season with salt and pepper, garnish with chopped herb.

Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad

A good pairing of vegetables. Kohlrabi is the result of crossing cabbage with rutabaga, so an affinity exists. This salad has a sweet and tangy flavor. Dill is called for here, if you can get fresh, do so, it’s great. Dried dill is also good. Caraway seeds is a good herb here, too–both dill and caraway figure prominently in cabbage recipes. Fennel fronds would be a good sub for dill, but use much less, as they’re very strong-tasting.

3 c shredded cabbage
1 c sliced, diced or julienned peeled kohlrabi
1/2 – 3/4 c dried fruit, chopped, if necessary (I use goji berries here)
1 garlic clove, minced
6 T fresh, chopped dill or 1 – 2 T dried dill; or 1 T caraway seeds; or 3 T chopped fennel fronds
1 t or s lemon zest (what you zest from one lemon)
6 T lemon juice
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 t salt, or to tate
ground black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. This is best mixed by hand for a good minute, but a wide spatula is also good. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Taste for seasonings. Stir again before serving.