Monday Meal Review: Russia

This week we took the Russian Potato Salad to a potluck event in downtown Tulsa called “Open Tables” where individuals of different religions and belief systems gather to share food and company. It was my first time. While the discussion would have been fascinating (we were encouraged to talk about our differences), my table – through a series of prior commitments, baby bedtimes, and no shows - had completely vacated by the time discussion started. And so it came to be that, while the room chattered on, I sat alone at my table, thinking about the evening, staring at my empty plate.

I briefly considered switching tables to join another group but the longer I sat there, the more I realized that the food had already done the job – no words were necessary to learn about our differences. Earlier that evening I had slipped our potato salad into the mix between a giant steaming bowl of biryani, spicy chickpeas, cinnamon-laced kugel, and goat stew. The variety was intoxicating. As I filled my plate, a casserole of neon green lime jello salad caught my eye. (Salad isn’t quite the right word, nor is jello; the mixture had been whipped with cream so that the concoction had slumped into a somewhat mushy, vague form.)

Suddenly, a gentleman said ”Now that’s an Oklahoman salad.”

I looked up as he gave a nod to a sweet, shaky sort of old lady. She was beautiful the way women who’ve lived full, meaningful lives are beautiful. Turns out she had made the lime jello salad he was cooing over. Any other time, in any other place, I might not have taken any, but this night I placed a small scoop out of respect and curiosity.

To be honest, the squishy slump seemed out of place among all the heady spices and rich gravies. I tried hard to not let the foods touch – something I generally don’t fuss about. Back at the table, I ate circles around the salad until it was the only food left. I took a microscopic bite. I thought of the sweet old lady who had put so much effort into the dish. I wanted to love it. I took another bite.

The man’s words, “Now that’s an Oklahoman salad,” kept ringing in my ears.  I had no idea this was typical of our little corner of the world. In fact, I knew more about each of the “foreign” dishes than this local one. While all around me people sampled the Russian Potato Salad, I stayed focused on the jello salad.

Talk about a wake up call.

Pumpkin Olad’yi [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

The combination of pumpkin, buttermilk, honey, and raspberries is wonderful, rich, and the perfect way to wake up on a chilly Saturday. These small “pancakes” were gone in seconds, the family loved them that much. I particularly appreciated that this is an international recipe that doesn’t need any really unusual ingredients. I can make it simply by popping open the pantry (er, that’s what I’d do if I did, in fact, have a pantry).

What I loved least about this dish:

The only real issue is being patient enough to cook these pancakes low and slow, so that they cook all the way through.

Egg, Egg, Caviar [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

I have never made eggs this way – the soft, creamy egg is so rich it tastes as if there’s cheese in them. The hit of chives and heavy cream really takes them over the edge.  I’ll be whipping up my eggs this way quite often.

What I loved least about this dish:

Oh, that caviar. That intense, intense caviar. I’m proud of my entire family who all tried it. We were brave. We wanted to be like Russians, but unfortunately the fish oil flavor was overwhelming for all of us. Our taste buds revolted. The good news? Right now our neighbors have some mighty fine caviar in their fridge. Enjoy, friends, enjoy!

Russian Potato Salad | Olivier Salad [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

Don’t think of this as salad. Think of this as an entire meal … everything from your carrots, to peas, to ham lives in this bowl. Everyone I offered this to, ate it up (although I do have to admit I went light on the mayonnaise because we don’t eat a lot of that around here.

What I loved least about this dish:

There’s a lot of slicing and dicing, so make sure you plan for enough time to do that. Also, be sure you don’t overcook your potatoes or you’ll have trouble dicing them nice and neatly.

Russian Tea [Recipe]

(Just a little bonus post for fun)

Ava’s Corner

WEEKLY GIVEAWAY WINNER

Congratulations to Nicole who said:

While I would love to keep and cherish them, I would give them as a gift to my neice, Gabriella, who was adopted into our forever family from Russia. My sister has recently completed their fourth international adoption and we can now call our family the “U.N.” since we cover: Russia, South Korea, Ethiopia and China. Gabbi would love to use these measuring cups in the kitchen baking all sorts of yummy things.

Please email me by November 12, 2012 to claim your prizes.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Neat,,,I could never take to Cavier either…never could figure out what the big deal was…especially the price tag!!
    What did neighbor John say?

  2. And how did the Oklahoman salad actually taste? ;-)

    Those pancakes look like a must try!

  3. Kathy Thomson says:

    Sasha, I think I know exactly the lime salad you refer to!! I remember my mom making it really frequently in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s!! I do have the recipe, although I haven’t made it in years and years! So funny, I never thought of it as an “Oklahoma” specialty!!! My recipe includes crushed pineapple (you were correct!) and chopped pecans, as well as lime jello and Dream Whip……

  4. Sasha, you hardly ever find a food you dislike, but it looks like Ava handled that caviar better than you did! Your expression was priceless! The only caviar I’ve ever had is the cheap stuff in the grocery store — I liked it, especially on bagels with sour cream. (Gotta cut that salt somehow!)

    I know the lime salad — I don’t think that’s Oklahoman as much as it’s just sort of mid-western/southern/middle American. My friend gave me a fat cookbook one year as a gift that was full of recipes like that — most using canned this and packaged that, and most sounded just too greasy and carbo loaded with little nutritional value. It was a cookbook made by her sorority, and they put one out every year. She offered to get me one each year! Aaack! I politely told her that the book had SO many recipes, that it would take me ages to work through just the one book, so I couldn’t possibly use more. But sometimes those types of recipes are good to have handy, if you’re attending an event with a mostly hometown crowd. Kudos to Tulsa for embracing cultural differences!

  5. A lovely meal but I’m surprised about the caviar. It looks like Osetra from Russia. Was it a really good caviar? Even if it was, it is possible you got a bad batch because the flavor shouldn’t be fishy or unpleasant or overwhelming.

    • Isn’t osetra one of the types Steven Zimmerman samples in the video? That was black, with small eggs. But I also was surprised by the description of an extreme fishy taste — I think it’s supposed to taste oceany, but fresh.

  6. Oooh potato salads are one of my favorite things. This one sounds so yummy.

  7. Christina says:

    I am trying to learn more about the regional specialties of the US. Many of them are limited to just a handful of restaurants or stores in 1 town or neighborhood, and that makes it difficult to discover their existence from afar. I am looking for things like Benedictine sandwiches from Lexington, KY, guri-guri from Maui, green sauce from Houston, Jucy Lucys from Minneapolis, coffee cabinets from Rhode Island, datil pepper sauce from St. Augustine, gizmo sandwiches from the Iowa State Fair, Chicken Angelo from Las Vegas, opera creams from Cincinnati, and there are so many more to discover. If you want to start going through the US after finishing eating through the world, that would be awesome. Or you could implore your readers to share their obscure American foods for the rest of us trying to eat around the US. I can’t find anything at all for Montana or Wyoming, and hardly anything for a bunch of other states. Some cities, like Chicago, have so many specialties that it is just mindboggling (Chicago has aquarium-style barbecue, atomic cake, big baby burgers, chicken Vesuvio, & mother-in-law sandwiches among the not-famous specialties).

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