NOTE: All soup photos in this post are by my talented friend Sarah Carson.
The first time I saw Mladen was in a second year philosophy class. He looked a lot like my high school sweetheart, so he immediately caught my eye. He sat in the back of the class, his long blond hair pulled back into a bun, and a big, ragged hoodie pulled over his head. He sat mostly quiet for the first few classes, his cheek pressed into his palm, his whole body contorted forward, listening intently to our teacher’s haphazard monologues. After class, he would talk to another classmate in hushed tones, erupting in a big, unstoppable laugh once in a while. But he mostly kept quiet for a while. Then he started talking in class, and I knew we’d become fast friends.
It wasn’t just the accent that marked him as a kindred spirit, though I definitely noticed that. It was his entire demeanour – his wild gesticulations, his impassioned speeches, the arguments that seemed to arise out of thin air. Mladen seemed to consider everything worth fighting for, every hill the one to die on. In many others, those traits would have seemed annoying. But Mladen had an uncanny ability to convince you of whatever he wanted, before you even realized you had an opinion to the contrary. For a homesick immigrant, he embodied the Slavic culture and mannerisms of my youth. I was intrigued, but did not know how to start up a friendship, let alone a conversation.
We started spending time together the following year, while collaborating on a project for another class. Our first project meeting turned into an intense eight-hour-long heartfelt discussion, where we both poured out our thoughts about living life as immigrants in a Western country, about love, about the difficulty of forming friendships with Canadians, and of course, about food and drinks.
The commonalities between us shone like well-lit highways on a dark night, the lifelines on a monitor. For me, they brought back a sense of home. When our personalities clashed, the fights were spectacular; but we also recognized when we were just showing off, arguing for the sake of being heard. Over the years, our friendship became a cultural exchange, and a testimony to the impact of upbringing on who we become.
When I first made this Serbian Pasulj white bean soup at the youth cooking club I volunteer at, I immediately thought of Mladen. I remembered how we would eat big chunks of salty, white cheese with tomatoes over the sink at his parents’ house. I thought of how he would dissect the flavours of Czech beer, which was similar to, and yet so different from, Serbian and Russian beers. I remembered we both didn’t like the combination of salty and sweet when we first arrived in North America, thinking peanut butter and jam, or pretzels and chocolate were disgusting. And I realized just how much I missed my friend.
Making this Serbian Pasulj white bean soup takes me back to our lazy afternoons in the park, or driving to the beach, or arguing in a fluorescent-lit university class. The blend of tomato, paprika and creamy white beans feel familiar and comfortable all at once. This peppery and tangy soup is filling but light, exactly what you want on a lonely winter day, when you may or may not be missing a good friend.
Pasulj Serbian white bean soup, or how a common culture can shine like a beacon
Author: adapted very slightly from Kelsey Dewis
Recipe type: soup
- 2-3 cups of white beans (2 cans, or use dried beans – dried beans typically need to be soaked and cooked for a much longer time, so allow time for soaking)
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro or parsley
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 large carrot, scraped and sliced
- 1 celery, chopped finely
- 1 green pepper
- 5 to 6 whole peppercorns (or crushed black pepper)
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- 2 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of paprika
- The juice of one lemon
- Dill for decoration (optional)
- Vegan (or regular) sour cream for serving (optional)
- If using dry beans, soak beans in water overnight (use 2 cups of water to each cup of beans). Drain and rinse beans.
- Pour olive oil on the bottom of the soup pot. Add onion and sauté for five minutes until it is fragrant and starts to brown. Add garlic and sauté for another five.
- If using dry beans, add the soaked, rinsed beans and enough water to cover the beans, plus cover another three inches. Bring the water to a boil then down to a simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the beans are cooked through. Add four more cups of water.
- If using canned beans, add them and enough water to cover beans + three inches, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients and cook gently over a low heat until vegetables are at desired texture. (Approximately 30 minutes.)
- If desired, add a dollop of sour cream and some chopped dill in each bowl before serving.
At some point in their lives, every Israeli will spend a lot of time at the central bus station. Unlike the Greyhound Bus Depot of North America, where some people will never go, the typical Israeli central bus station is a happening, bustling place, full of noise, life, and scents most discerning people would rather pass. Commerce of all kinds takes place here, most of it legal, some of it less so. Beggars and sellers of trinkets line the aisles, peddling their wares to the weary and wary passengers. Soldiers crowd the benches, some with big rifles, others with sleek and shortened ones. Mothers cuddle screaming babes, attempting in vain to soothe them and distract them from the crowds. And teenagers in ripped jeans wait to skip school, their heads cocooned by the sounds emitting form their ipods.
And as they wait, at one point in their lives every Israeli will buy some food at the central bus station. Whether it is done to pass their time, or to quell their aching stomachs, they will wander aimlessly towards the many stands and shacks lining the path. They may purchase a cold chocolate milk in a bag, a bottle of coke, or some freshly squeezed juice. But most often, they will reach for a dough-wrapped bite of nirvana: some fast food.
But Israeli fast food is nothing to scoff at. While North Americans can choose between a greasy hamburger or soggy fries, Israelis get falafel in a pita, shwarma in a baguette, bourekas, or a chocolate croissant. Despite the fact that all of these are quite fattening, and far from being gluten-free, they are, for the most part, extremely tasty. Some days, a bite into a warm pita, filled to the brim with pickled vegetables, dribbling hot sauce, and tangy hummus is all it takes to bring joy and peace to the world. Other days, it’s all you need to get a severe stomach ache… but we won’t go there.
My personal favourite fast food sandwich is the sabich. A unique creation that was likely thought up by a ravenous madman, the sabich sandwich is a weird hybrid between moussaka, falafel, bourekas, and a breakfast sandwich. It incorporates layers of fried, delicious eggplant, creamy tahini, starchy potatoes, zesty pickles, and sharp, spicy smear of harissa. In its traditional form, the sabich also includes a hard boiled egg, but I just don’t swing that way. I see it as a perfect marriage of flavours, and I can’t get enough of its layered goodness. The only downside is that I usually steer clear of eating at bus stops.
But there’s nothing stopping you from making this at home. Get a chunk of your favourite bread (I used a sourdough focaccia, but a baguette will do as well, or a crusty gluten-free bread), spread a generous layer of tahini (or even hummus), and layer on the eggplant, potato and pickles. If you’re feeling adventurous, tuck in some slices of hard-boiled egg for a complete meal. A drizzle of hot sauce on top will seal the deal, and your taste buds will thank me.
Sabich, or an eggplant, potato and pickles sandwich
Author: Ksenia Prints
Recipe type: lunch
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
- For two sandwiches:
- One large focaccia, a long baguette, cut in half, or any 2 portions of your favourite crusty bread
- One eggplant
- Two potatoes
- Four pickles
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- 2 teaspoons of water
- Harissa, or your favourite hot sauce
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 450 on the grill/ broil setting. Slice eggplant into one-inch-thick slices. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil, and drizzle it lightly with olive oil. Arrange eggplant slices neatly on baking sheet, ensuring none are covered by other slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill in oven for 15-20 minutes, until slices are golden and browned. Remove, and turn slices over, drizzling with more olive oil and sprinkling a bit more salt. Return to oven for another 15 minutes, and check for doneness; slices should be nice and browned.
- While eggplant is cooking, peel and cook potatoes. I use the microwave approach I mentioned (here http://immigrantstable.com/2014/02/17/russian-root-salad/#.UxP0-bvhdVI), but you can cook them the old-fashioned way, in a pot of water.
- Slice pickles thinly. When potatoes are ready, let them cool and slice them thinly as well. Mix tahini paste with water in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and whisk together until creamy and blended together.
- When ready to assemble the sandwiches, slice bread in half horizontally, ensuring the two halves are about even in thickness. Spread tahini sauce on one half. Add a layer of eggplant slices. Spread potatoes slices on the next level, and sprinkle a pinch of salt and drizzle olive oil over the potatoes layer. Follow by a layer of pickle slices. Spread harissa on the inside of the last bread slice, or drizzle with your favourite hot sauce, and cover. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow sandwich to rest overnight, cutting it into two halves (or four quarters) the next day. Or cut in half and eat right away, wiping smears of tahini off your face.
Within the first two months of us dating, my boyfriend invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Perhaps it was because he really liked me; perhaps it was because I was leaving the country soon. Whatever the case was, I was excited, but also a bit nervous, at the invitation. I had never met his family at that point, but I knew they were well educated, well read, and likely quite cultured, and I really wanted to impress them. So I decided to bake a pie.
The problem was, at that point I was at the height of my lactose intolerance. I had also begun having unexplainable stomach pains, that I would (much) later link to yeast, or Candida overgrowth. I also had very little successful experience at baking. But what’s all that compared to the prospect of impressing someone’s parents? I figured I’d bite the bullet and bake something as iconic as pumpkin pie. But I didn’t even know where to start.
My two experiences baking pie until that point were successful, but involve their own stories. They were both berry pies. This was a wholly new undertaking, and I decided to consult friends on the intricacies of pie baking. I was delighted to find out my friend Sandy Klowak bakes pumpkin pies for her family every year, and she was kind enough to invite me over for an afternoon of baking. She would even open her secret family recipe to me! Things couldn’t have lined up better.
Except that I really wasn’t a good baker (I still barely am OK; half my attempts turn out, while the other half fails miserably), and I didn’t know the first thing about egg washes, burning pie crusts, or the difference between shortening and margarine (I know, I know, blasphemy). Sandy was a lifesaver; throughout that afternoon, she patiently walked me through the process, teaching me to not overwork the dough, to use real cream in place of condensed milk, and to cover the edges of the pie crust with tin foil in order to avoid burning (a trick I sadly failed to implement when making this pie). She shared with me tried and true crust and filling recipes from her mother, Jill Moats, which were actually adapted from old versions printed on Crisco packages and in the original Joy of Cooking book. And above all, she showed me how easy it is to bond over eggs, cream and flour. There was something unabashedly traditional and feminized about that pursuit, the act of mixing together sweet ingredients with fragrant spices, of checking the oven, of drinking warm tea and room-temperature wine and talking about our lives. I wasn’t discovering the wheel; I was simply rediscovering what my ancestors have been doing for generations. And isn’t that the whole point of cooking family recipes?
Since then, we have baked pies together for three consecutive Thanksgivings. The recipes stayed the same, though the setting has changed – last time we made these, Sandy has already moved in with her boyfriend and used homegrown pumpkin for the filling. We have also made Christmas favours, rolled fresh pasta, and cooked tomato sauce together. We have discussed ravioli and perogies, making tentative plans for more big baking projects. And I have made the pies myself, making this with different squashes, playing around with pumpkin pecan pies and turning the filling into a moist and delicious crustless tartlette (recipe to come). Throughout it all, our friendship grew stronger, bound by the power of gluten, heat, and sugar. And though I am pretty certain I have impressed my boyfriend’s parents with my pie-making skills, the best part to come out of these pies was our friendship.
Author: Adapted slightly from Jill Moats, who adapted it from Crisco’s No Fail Pastry Crust, and Joy of Cooking
Recipe type: Dessert
- 1 9-inch pie:
- For crust:
- 250 ml, or 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ml salt
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) shortening, room temperature
- One small egg, or ½ large egg
- 15 (1 tablespoon) ml cold water
- 7.5 ml (1/2 tablespoon) white vinegar
- For filling:
- 1.5 cups of cooked or canned pumpkin or squash
- 1 cup of rich cream
- ⅛ + 1 tablespoon cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅓ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg or allspice
- a pinch of ground cloves
- 2 small slightly beaten egg, or 1.5 medium, or 1 large
- For pecans:
- 100 grams of pecan halves
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- To make crust, combine flour and salt in mixing bowl. Cut room-temperature shortening into flour with two knives until mixture is uniform and shortening resembles large peas. Do not overwork.
- Beat egg, water and vinegar together. Pour evenly over flour mixture. Stir with work until well combined and all of the mixture is moistened.
- Without overworking it too much, shape dough into a ball and lightly flatten into a circle of about 10 cm. Wrap and chill for 15-30 minutes (or longer, if making ahead).
- Preheat oven to 425F.While dough is chilling, mix all filling ingredients together (pumpkin, cream, sugar, eggs, and spices).
- To prepare pecan topping, heat a pan on low-medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and allow them to melt slightly. Add pecans to pan, mix gently with spatula to ensure even coating, and let cooking for about a minute. Remove from heat, transfer to a plate and let cool down (do not touch pecans as they’re very, very, very hot and you’ll get a nasty burn. Trust me).
- When crust has cooled and you’re ready to bake pie, dust rolling pin and work surface lightly with flour. Roll dough to a uniform thickness with light, even strokes. If dough sticks, dust lightly with flour. Roll out a circle about 1 inch larger than an upside-down pie plate.
- We also found that rolling the dough on parchment paper and then transferring it on the parchment paper to the pie plate worked well.
- Crisco suggests that for easy transfer, you should slide a spatula under the dough to loosen it, then lift one edge of pastry onto rolling pin and loosely drape it around the pin. Unwrap onto pie plate, without stretching.
- Fill pie shell with filling. Arrange cooled caramelized pecans on top. Cut strips of aluminum paper and try to wrap those around your pie edges to prevent burning, or at least brush them with an egg wash (one egg with two tablespoons of water). Bake in a 425F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 45 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out mostly clean.
- Serve with sweetened whipped cream, maybe flavoured with 2 tablespoons of bourbon.
When I was about 12 (11? 10?), my mother had a huge meltdown.
One of my mother’s most identifiable features was always her thick, long, dark brown braid. She was like Rapunzel with that braid – it could be seen for miles, she could wrap it around just about anything, and it immediately signaled to anyone who met her that this young lady meant business. Or at least, that she could grow a mean head of hair. We loved her hair, and couldn’t get enough of playing with it, combing it, braiding it, putting hairpins in it, arranging it a million different way. That is, until she chopped it off.
If to be honest, it didn’t happen all at once. When we moved to Israel, my mother cut her long tresses into a more manageable, mid-back-length hairdo. Her hair was still long enough to put into a ponytail, luscious and curly, but she said it was less of a chore to wear in the Middle Eastern heat. She could also do things with it, other than just constantly keep it in a tight, very Jewish braid. Though we weren’t happy, we understood and accepted her. She was still our long-haired mother, albeit with less of a braid. And now, I was the one growing out my hair, braiding it.
But this all changed one spring evening, when my sister and I were at home watching television. Our dad walked into the house, silent and ashen-faced. “Don’t be scared when your mom walks in. Whatever you do, don’t be alarmed,” he said, immediately sending our 12 and 8-year-old hearts racing. Of course, we panicked. Would she be one legged? Has she been horribly disfigured by an unimaginable accident? What could be so bad that my dad would tell us not freak out?
The answer was platinum blond. When my mother sheepishly walked in through that apartment door, I am certain the neighbours three floors above us could hear the screams. She had once again chopped off her long brown traces, opting this time for a short, boxy cut that was adventurously dyed platinum blond on the ends. Frosted tips, I guess you could say. But on my 33-year-old mother, it just looked horrendous.
We cried and screamed, throwing ourselves at her feet, mumbling, “what have you done to yourself?” and the ever considerate “you don’t even look like our mother!” My mother tried to keep it calm for all of 15 minutes, laughing our hysterics off, until she unsurprisingly broke down in a fit herself, slamming and locking the bedroom door to cry for what felt like forever. My father, who was visibly pissed off at her, took a while to try and follow her in, at which point he discovered she broke the handle and the door could no longer be opened. Further hysterics ensued.
Years into the future, I can no longer remember how the collective temper tantrum ended. But in the end, everyone compromised. My mother went and dyed her hair a more acceptable shade of blond a few days later, and she let it grow out over the next few months. She admitted it was a terrible idea. My dad apologized. My sister and I realized we loved our mother no matter how she looked, and we grew used to her edgier look. Neither one of us understood at the time that she was experiencing a real-life crisis, my dad (possibly) included. All I got out of that was that sometimes, living with other people required real compromise: about your hair colour, looks, hobbies, and even tastes in food.
Years into the future, I am in my own relationship. Some days, it’s got its ups, and other days there are downs. The downs can be disheartening. But I’m slowly learning to make some of those same compromises that came so naturally to my peace-loving mother. I bite my tongue when I want to tsk it. I ask for advice even when I think I know the answer. And some days, I order chicken through our local farmers co-op. And then I help my partner cook it. Because love demands sacrifices. Just don’t expect me to change my hair.
I have already told you about my grandmother’s paprika-roasted chicken. This is it, made years later by two sets of very different hands. I hope we did it justice (because the photography sure didn’t. But then again, I blame it on the fact I’ve never shot an animal before, pun intended). It’s an easy recipe, but one that I wanted to put down for posterity.
Paprika-roasted chicken, or the things we do for love
Author: Greg Furmaniuk and Ksenia Prints, adapted from Berta Prints
Recipe type: Poultry
- One 3-4 pound whole pasture-raised, organic chicken, defrosted
- ¼-1/2 cup mayo
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 6 cloves of garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon spice mixture – we used a San Moreno salt blend, but my grandmother leaves it pretty open. An Herbes de Provence mixture would be good, or a poultry seasoning blend
- 2 lemons, cut in half
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 3 potatoes
- 3 carrots
- 1 onion
- A few hours or the day before, slit the plastic wrap around your chicken, drain of any juices that were in the bag. If the innards are still there, remove them and use in stock making (our chicken was cleaned out by the farmers, so we didn’t have to figure this part out). Place chicken in a large bowl.
- Pat the chicken dry thoroughly with paper towels, taking care to blot behind the wings, legs, and inside the body cavity. This will help the skin crisp up in the oven.
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, paprika and other spices of your choosing, salt, and pepper. Finely mince two cloves of garlic and add to mixture. Mix well to combine. Start with ¼ cup of mayonnaise and if chicken is very dry, add more.
- Ensure that there are no juices in the bowl with the chicken. Rub the chicken with this mixture, taking care to cover all spots inside and out.
- Stuff lemons, rosemary sprigs and 4 cloves of garlic inside the chicken’s cavity.
- Cover chicken with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight.
- When ready to roast, preheat oven to 500F. Wash and chop your potatoes, carrots and onion into wedges. Arrange them in an even layer on the bottom of a large roasting pan, in order to make a bed for the chicken. Sprinkle with the same herb mixture you used in the chicken’s marinade: paprika, salt, pepper, and the spices of your choice.
- Sprinkle the outside of the chicken generously with salt and pepper.
- Set the chicken breast-side-up on the bed of vegetables (we got this part wrong and laid the chicken belly side-down. We then had to turn it over halfway through the roasting process. Don’t make the same mistake). The chicken will be lifted an inch or two above the bottom of the pan by the vegetables.
- Put the chicken in the oven and let cook at 500 for 15 minutes, allowing the skin to crisp. Lower temperature to 400°F, and continue roasting for about another hour. After an hour, check if the chicken is done by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the meatiest part of its thigh. The internal temperature should be at least 165° for the chicken to be done. If you’re under, put it back in to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes and check it again.
- Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Serve chicken alongside the roasted vegetables in the pan (which may need another 15 minutes on the grill setting at 500F to crisp up a bit more).
- Eat a drumstick for me.
NOTE: All photos in this post were taken by the incredibly talented Whitney Light.
I can remember my first time eating broccoli. It was in Canada, after an uninspiring trip to a major-chain supermarket in the dead of winter. With my basket full of uninspiring beige bulges, some sad, anemic lettuce, and labels in a foreign language, my heart and palette were yearning for something bright and fresh. As my eyes scanned the fluorescent-lit aisles, I registered the perky heads of broccoli, covered in a dewy mist of artificially-sprinkled water, and laying in their cradles of fake polyethylene grass. I had never tasted broccoli before, but the curly-haired stems looked so inviting, so fresh, that I decided it was worth a try.
If to be frank, I am not sure I liked the way broccoli tasted right off the bat. Perhaps I fried it the first time I ate it, adding it to a simple medley of Asian vegetables. Perhaps I steamed it, eating it with salt and potatoes, and likely hating every bite (I am still not a fan of plain, steamed broccoli, though I find it satisfying with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast). Perhaps I made a healthier version of broccoli slaw, substituting the mayonnaise for yogurt and adding cranberries and almonds. Perhaps it went rotten in my fridge before I ever got to cooking it, back in those first, overwhelming days in my new country.
One thing I know for sure: that first time I ate broccoli, I definitely didn’t know to keep it nearly fresh and let it marinade in a spicy, sour, and sweet vinaigrette. I didn’t know to anticipate the explosive, tart flavours that would banish the winter blues away and bring light and warmth to my palette, and my heart. I didn’t know how well broccoli would take to the simplest dressing. But now that I’ve made broccoli countless times since, I know this is the best way to have it, especially when the temperatures are still hovering around the zeroes. And I know that sometimes, the best way to decorate a tree is not to do much to it at all.
Lime, chili and ginger-dressed broccoli
Author: Ksenia Prints
Recipe type: Vegetable side dish
- 3 small heads of broccoli
- 2 tbs of rice vinegar
- 1 tsp of sesame oil
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 1 tbs of chili-ginger sauce (or sriracha with one clove of garlic, minced)
- Juice of half a lime
- 2 tbs of vegetable oil
- 1 tbs of maple syrup
- 2 tbs of toasted sesame seeds
- Wash and cut your broccoli into small chunks and florets. Do not discard the stems! They pack a lot of vitamins and are actually a lot sweeter than the overused florets. Simply chop off about an inch off the bottom, split the stem in half, and slice into half-moons. Separate the head into bite-size, individual florets (cut large ones in half to match the rest).
- Place broccoli in a microwave safe bowl. Prepare an ice bath by filling another bowl with the coldest water, and adding ice cubes (if available) to it. Blanch broccoli quickly: if working on stovetop, bring a pot of water to a boil, dump broccoli florets and slices in, and let cook for a minute, no more than two. Drain water, and place broccoli in an ice bath. Allow to cool sufficiently. OR do what I do, and place one tablespoon of water at the bottom of the microwave-safe bowl with the broccoli. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the microwave for 1.5 minutes. Taste – if broccoli is beginning to cook but still has a bite, and its colour is bright and green, then it is ready. Remove plastic wrap, pour out water and place broccoli in an ice bath. Allow to cool sufficiently.
- NOTE: Some days, I’m in a rush and skip the ice bath. Other days, I prep the salad a day ahead, which allows me to keep the broccoli fresh. I just chop everything into small pieces, and let the broccoli marinade in the dressing overnight. The results are great in any case.
- Mix dressing in a small jar: combine vinegar, sesame oil, chili-garlic sauce, vegetable oil and maple syrup. Squeeze out the juice of half a lime and add. Finely grate ginger into dressing. Close tightly with lid and shake jar vigorously a few times to incorporate and blend all flavours.
- Dress broccoli with dressing, and let sit in fridge for at least 30 minutes for flavours to meld and broccoli to soften. Sprinkle with sesame seeds right before serving.
Going through my master’s degree in Israel, I was always commuting to and from school. While my school was located in the centre of the country, I was living with my parents in the south, partly in effort to save money, but mostly in attempt to heal a broken heart with the support of my family. A two-and-a-half-hour trip each way meant that I was often crashing on friends’ couches, and returning home every other day, tired and often in need of a detox. Long days turned into longer weeks, and it seemed like I was spending most of my days inside a train car, or on a dark bus full of sleeping strangers. Though books and my ipad were certainly helping me pass the time, the doldrums of a commuter life was really starting to get to me.
The worst part about living out of a backpack meant that I was often eating out. And as the income of a living-at-home student is nothing to marvel at, my options were often dictated by economy, and therefore, pretty dismal. Pitas with hummus, bourekas, and bagel-toasts with questionable ingredients bought at train stations were my usual diet, and while my palette wasn’t too happy with selection, the real grumbling was coming from my belly. The carbohydrates were starting to show.
Halfway through my first year, I clued in to the fact this simply can’t go on. I began trying to bring food from home, courtesy of my generous mother’s supermarket trips: individually packaged salads, small containers of soy milk and yogurt, and lots of durable fruit. I also started packing some leftovers in plastic containers, and eating those while commuting. Through some disasters (books soaked in oil from a leaky box of eggplant salad, an overly ripe banana that smeared all over my ipad), I learned that some dishes were more portable and amenable to lack of cooling than others.
My grandparents’ signature Vinaigrette salad quickly became a commuting favourite. This Russian root vegetable salad is comprised of a medley of cooked beets, carrots, and potatoes, which get perked up by some sharp onion, zesty pickled sauerkraut (or regular pickles, according to my grandmother Berta’s recipe), and a drizzle of good ol’ oil and lemon. This Russian root salad was portable, did not require refrigeration, and, after the greedy vegetables soaked up all the dressing, it didn’t leak. Low in fat and chock-full of nutrition and vitamins, it was also a perfectly filling meal. I was finally in salad heaven.
Now, I make this salad when all winter is at its worst, and I feel like I can’t possibly eat another roasted yam. One look at the humdrum line-up of potatoes, beets and carrots may not seem too inspire, but trust me – with the treatment of a simple tangy dressing and the bite of pickled vegetables, this salad becomes a serious contender for a signature winter dish.
Tangy Russian root vegetable salad “Vinaigrette”
Author: Ksenia Prints, adapted from family recipe
Recipe type: Salad
- 3-4 medium-sized potatoes
- 3-4 beets
- 3 carrots
- 1 onion
- 1 cup of pickled sauerkraut, or 3-4 pickles
- the juice of one lemon
- 3-4 Tbs vegetable oil
- Table salt – to taste.
- Thoroughly wash and clean beets, carrots and potatoes. Prick each vegetable a few times with a fork. Place all vegetables in large pot, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 20-30 mins, until they are easily pierced with a fork. Let vegetables cool to room temperature.
- When cooked vegetables are cool enough to handle, do your best to peel them (potatoes will peel easily, beets a little less so, and carrots will likely be the hardest to peel), but don’t worry if some skin remains. Chop them finely, into ½”-1″ cubes, and mix them in a large bowl.
- Finely chop onion, and add to bowl with cooked vegetables.
- If using sauerkraut, add to bowl as is. If using pickles, chop finely and add to the rest of the vegetables. Mix well.
- Stir together vegetable oil, lemon juice and salt. Season salad with dressing, mixing to ensure all vegetables coat well.
- Let rest in refrigerator for 1.5 to 2 hours. Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.