As part of the project of making ‘snackbar’ food from scratch, I thought there should also be a vegetable dish on the menu. Vegetables are not a popular menu item in these ‘restaurants’, unless you count potatoes and ketchup as vegetables. I decided to make a Russian Salad (known as “Huzarensalade” in Dutch, named after hussars, the light cavalry that comes from Russia and other Eastern European countries). Russian Salad consists of boiled potatoes, boiled vegetables, ham, and mayonnaise. I left out the ham to make a vegetarian version, but you could of course include it again. Russian Salad has a bit of a bad name because it is often made with mayonnaise from a jar and canned vegetables. If made fresh and with moderate use of mayonnaise, it can be quite elegant. Another key success factor is to cook the vegetables separately so each can be cooked just right. The work of this salad is in cutting the vegetables into small cubes — I do not know of a household machine that can do this for you.
Part of the ‘fun’ of making a Russian Salad is to decorate the outside with slices of hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, pickles, anchovies, etc. I didn’t have any tomatoes on hand and was hungry, so didn’t put a lot of effort into this step this time around.
250 grams (.55 lbs) waxy potatoes
100 grams (.22 lbs) carrots
150 grams (.33 lbs) peas, frozen or fresh (but not from a can or jar)
25 grams (1 oz) pickled gherkins (sour)
white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground white pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 hard-boiled egg
garnishes such as more gherkins, tomatoes, anchovies, etc.
2 pinch of sugar
pinch of baking powder
Bring some water to a boil. Add salt to taste, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of baking powder. Add peas (may be still frozen). Bring back to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until the peas are tender but still firm to the bite. (The baking powder is added for obtaining a very green color rather than olive green. It will also speed up the cooking process, so beware of overcooked peas!)
Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes about the size of the peas (this is called brunoise). An easy way to do this is to cut into slices crosswise first, stack a few on top of each other and then cut into small squares.
Rinse the potatoes with cold water to remove the starch. Put the tomatoes into a pot and cover with water. Add salt. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes are done but still firm to the bite.
Since I was serving the salad as part of a themed snack soirée, there had to be a wine pairing as well. I decided upon a medium-bodied semillon-chardonnay blend and that worked very well. The semillon makes the wine fat and creamy, which goes well with the mayonnaise. The wine had some fresh tones as well to go with the pickles. You could also use a 100% semillon if you can find one (usually from Australia), but those may be full-bodied and a bit too heavy.