This is a case, today, of “The Best Laid Plans”. The recipe typical to Albania that I was going to share with you, got placed on the proverbial back-burner (pardon the pun) as a result of my language class this morning. To me, part of learning the language is also learning about the culture, and in today’s lesson, we discussed the Albanian Christmas (Krishtlindjet) and New Year’s (Vitit e Ri) traditions. Christmas is a relatively newly celebrated holiday in Albania since up until the ’90s, Albania was a communist state. But, the New Year celebration is a time-honored holiday and that’s when the party starts! I asked my language instructor, Sedeta, about the traditional Tavolina e Vitet (the New Years’ table) and about traditional foods served during this festive time. She excitedly told me about the Sallate Ruse- Russian Salad, also known as Olivier Salad (invented by Lucien Olivier), which is the recipe I decided to share with you today.
Sallate Ruse: A Traditional New Years Dish:
I found it interesting that a traditional Albanian holiday dish had its origins in Russia and decided to do some research. It all quickly made sense. If you read the article I recently published on Albania, you know that after World War II, Albania became a Soviet Union satellite state. In modern times, Festive Russian and post-Soviet states, as in the case of Albania, still dress their holiday tables with this staple, yet, traditional salad.
As often happens with gourmet recipes that become popular, the ingredients which were rare, expensive, seasonal, or difficult to prepare were gradually replaced with cheaper and more readily available foods. Today’s Russian salad has many variations but the main ingredients are cooked and cooled vegetables, and meat with a mayonnaise/mustard dressing.
So, let’s begin putting this salad together!
Total Fat 48 grams
Saturated Fat 8.6 grams
Total Carbohydrates 35 grams
Dietary Fiber 5.6 grams
- Potatoes Cooked and Cooled;
- Carrots Cooked and Cooled;
- Eggs Cooked and Cooled;
- Peas (If Using fresh, then you must Cook and Cool) Frozen or canned peas are perfect for this dish.
- White or Red Onions;
- Cooked and cooled Beans
- Ham, Sausage, Pancetta, and Pepperoni Cooked and Cooled (optional)
Russian Salad Preparation:
The preparation of the Russian Salad is very simple, however, it will require a few steps and some extra time, because vegetables and eggs need to be cooked and cooled before chopping.
Step 1: Start by boiling the eggs for 10 minutes. Once boiled, leave them in the pot and replace boiling water with ice water fully cool off before peeling. Setting the eggs in cold water will loosen the membrane to make peeling easier.
Step 2: Place whole, peeled potatoes, and carrots in a pot of water. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to boil. Cook until softened. ( If you choose not to peel the potatoes before boiling, then you can easily slide the skin from the boiled potatoes once cooled. )
Step 3: Dice the onions into small pieces.
Step 4: Strain and rinse canned peas. Frozen peas can be used instead of canned. Or after boiling and cooling, fresh peas can be used.
Step 5: Peel and chop into cubes eggs, potatoes, and carrots (if using, cube your ham or other meat selections as well). Drain the beans. (Pinto, navy, red, or any type of bean you prefer)
Step 6: Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss them all together.
Step 7: In a small bowl combine mayonnaise with mustard and pepper. Add it to the salad ingredients and mix it all together.
An important tip when making Russian Salad:
Do not add salt to your mayonnaise mixture. Mayonnaise, as well as Dijon mustard, both have a lot of salt in them. Put the dressing on the salad without adding salt. Mix well and salt to taste.
As always, I hope you enjoy this recipe and the history behind it!
Until next time, friends, remember: “To Travel is to Live”