The dish in this post is so simple, it hardly deserves the title of a recipe. Most Russian people will find it obvious, commonplace, banal. But most of them will also murmur a sigh of pleasure when tasting the first spoonful after a long interim. Its taste is childhood. Its taste is home.If you want a more sophisticated traditional recipe, use the optional ingredients.
What you need:
3 medium-sized beets
3-4 large garlic cloves
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
3 walnuts, crushed
How to do it:
Place washed, unpeeled beets in a pot, cover with water, and let boil on medium heat until easily pierced with a knife (about 40 minutes). If you recall my earlier post about Classic Borsch, the method of cooking beets there was optimized to draw color out of them. In contrast, this method aims to imprison the flavor and vibrancy in the beets. Hence, they are boiled unpeeled. When the beets have cooked through, discard the water and let the beets cool. It's best to boil them ahead of time, and then use them the next day to avoid the hassle.
As the beets cook, soak prunes in lukewarm water for 30 minutes. This will make them softer and less intense in flavor. Chop the prunes into small (but not tiny) chunks before adding to the salad.
Peel the cooked beets, shred them on a rough shredder. Shred the garlic very finely and add to the beets. Mix thoroughly with the mayonnaise and serve cold. This is one of the classic additions to the notorious Russian zastolye, or Russian feast, where one sits glued to the table as the courses keep changing and the drinks keep pouring for hours on end. This is very stressful for the hostess. Personally, I never enjoyed this part of the culture. But the salads I did and do enjoy. I hope you will too.