More often than not, starters consist of a plate of sliced vegetables or an assorted cheese, fish or meat platter. Also, pickled products are traditionally served: pickled cucumbers, sour cabbage, tomatoes, rampson and mushrooms. All these things make your mouth water and are good appetizers to pair with strong drinks.
Salads are ardently beloved by our people. Vegetable salads from cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, herbs, lettuce, sweet peppers and other vegetables in different combinations are usually served with second course as a garnish.
But it is worthwhile to specially mention festive salads. Many recipes exist and each housewife does her best to make her dish unforgettable. Let alone on restaurants’ menus, where cooks refine their skills in all possible ways. Some salads have incredibly beautiful names: The Mimoza, The Garnet Bracelet and The Sunflower Sometimes, salad ingredients are specially picked to match a certain color and flavor palette. They are laid out according to the cook’s idea or the recipe from a cook book. These turn out to be very beautiful and they have a holiday spirit. As for the taste, many of our country’s visitors will find it rather unusual
Salads are prepared from different vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, cheeses… Sometimes all these things are mixed together. Most main salads on the Russian table were inherited from Soviet times, so they are usually seasoned with mayonnaise. The most important thing for a cook here is not to overload the salad with it. Of course, most salads are tasty, but their impact on an unprepared (or even morally prepared) human liver and stomach shouldn’t be underestimated. People suffer the most during the New Year’s Eve celebration: on these days, they traditionally go to parties, where salads are always served, and sometimes it is impossible to avoid consuming them out of politeness. So, the volume of salads consumed during the holidays inevitably represents a challenge even for the healthiest body. Recently, some cooks have begun to replace mayonnaise with a sour cream or yogurt dressing, which in some sense gives a break to the consumers, but mayonnaise is still favored.
And since we have already mentioned the New Year’s Eve celebration and a festive table in general, we cannot ignore the most important salad on the Russian festive table, although it has an absolutely foreign name, Olivier salad. It received its name from its creator, cooking expert Lucien Olivier, the owner of Hermitage restaurant. The composition of the salad in the 1860s, when the dish was invented, differs from the modern and more money-saving variant. Originally, the ingredients included grouse, crayfish tails, capers, olives, potatoes, fresh cucumbers and lettuce (as a base to line the plate). Calf’s head stock with vegetables (used for aspic) and Provencal gravy were added.
New standard Olivier Salad still contains potatoes and cucumbers, but capers and olives were replaced by boiled carrots and green peas, and instead of crayfish tails and grouse they add a cooked sausage (normally, Doktorskaya) and a couple of spoons of red caviar. And, obviously, some mayonnaise. Sometimes, a lot of mayonnaise, but normally restaurant cooks are not as immoderate with the dressing as housewives.
In good restaurants focused on Russian cuisine you can still taste that very Olivier according to Lucien’s original recipe.
Another festive salad is Seledka Pod Shuboi (herring in “shuba-coat”), which is popular across Russia. It consists of the following ingredients placed in layers: grated boiled beetroots, potatoes, carrots, onion, sliced boiled herring and, of course, mayonnaise dressing. Some people shape it as a fish or a fish in a coat. The coat is molded from the leftover ingredients.
Vinegret is another beetroot salad worth mentioning. Besides potatoes, carrots, onions and beetroots as such, it contains pickled cucumbers. Vegetable oil is used as a dressing. The best vinegret is flavored with crude sunflower oil.
Single-ingredient salads are also served, like, for example, grated carrot or beetroot salads seasoned with vegetable oil and garlic. Different fruit salads always please both kids and grown-ups on warm summer days.