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Tomato Herring Salad

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Herring is one of those products that is under appreciated here in the US. It evokes the feelings of unconcealed disgust and possibility of poisoning. This is strange since anchovies, which are very similar, are widely used in gourmet preparations. Herring is not only Russian traditional food, it is also a favourite in many European countries, Scandinavians being the biggest consumers of it. What seems disgusting might serve you good, one just needs to know how to use it in a proper way.
Tomato herring salad was first introduced to me by my aunt Shura long time ago, when I was a child, making my first steps in the kitchen. She was a very good cook, considering in what poor conditions she cooked, my auntie was a real master of the trade. She taught me a lot of things, actually it was she who drilled me in all cooking basics and principles.
Herring adds some substance to tomatoes, so this simple salad is not only good as an appetiser, but also will make a perfect lunch, if accompanied by a toast or rye bread, or even a light dinner, with boiled or steamed young potatoes or rice on the side.

What you need:
Barrel salted herring fillet (1/2 cup of small 1/3" pieces)
5-6  medium ripe tomatoes, cut in bite-size pieces
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
Unrefined sunflower oil
Black pepper

Mix gently all ingredients to spread herring evenly between tomatoes, let it stand for about 10 minutes, give it a final stir, and  serve.
Voila! It's that simple. Slight sweetness of ripe tomatoes blended with herring salty flavor introduces you to a very pleasing experience.

In this recipe the main thing is not to overdo herring. It could be of different saltiness, so watch the quantity.

Very important: do not use marinated herring sold in chain stores. You don't need sweet and salty taste, you need real salted herring, that was cured in salt brine in barrels. This herring is easily available in every Russian store. Today they have quite a variety of herring: herring cut in small pieces, herring in fillets, with oil, vinegar, herbs, luckily, they also still have traditional whole herring. The latter is where you get the best quality product. It involves a messy job of cleaning it and preparing fillets, but it pays off. If you are not ready for this battle in the kitchen, go with herring in oil, whole fillets work best.
If herring is not available, try anchovies. These little things are extremely salty, so pay attention to how many you use. I suggest 2 anchovy fillets per tomato is more that enough. Anchovies must be minced with a knife, then mixed evenly with tomatoes.
What else can I tell you about this salad? I just love it. I love it as it is, but also keep in mind that possibilities are endless, and one can experiment with other ingredients, leaving herring as a must. Use cucumber, for example, any lettuce will go well, too, slices of apple might give an unexpected effect. Use green onion instead of yellow, and sprinkle with different herbs.

Kitchen is our art studio, so every time you enter it try to create yet another little masterpiece of yours.

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