Raised in Queens by food-loving parents on civil servants' budgets, I had a childhood that served as a culinary world tour — by way of inexpensive, excellent, mom-and-pop restaurants around New York's five boroughs.
One occasional adventure was heading to Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn, for Russian food. I remember the restaurants there having a boisterous, party atmosphere with platters, vodka and live music flowing. (They still do!) In particular, I recall gobbling up this salad. It is composed of humble roots — beets, potatoes and carrots — plus pickled vegetables that together rise stunningly above the salad's likely "what's left in the cellar" origins.
My addition of white beans brings hearty protein to the plate; an ample splash of white vinegar gives it a bright punch, and a sprinkle of dill lends a fragrant freshness. It is an old-world dish for sure, but it has the modern appeal of a rediscovered classic and the potential health benefits of probiotics to boot. Those good bacteria, which foster gut balance as well as overall immune health, are found in fermented sauerkraut and pickles. But they do not survive the heating process that would make the vegetables shelf-stable, and not all pickles are fermented. So for a probiotic boost, choose fermented products from the refrigerated case.
The salad keeps well in the refrigerator and works for all four seasons, at home alongside a rich winter stew and a summer cookout. It is a good one to keep in mind as we launch into the New Year.
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6 servings (makes about 5 ½ cups)
Be sure to get fermented sauerkraut and pickles from the refrigerator case, for their good bacteria. The salad works year-round, equally at home alongside a rich winter stew and a summer cookout.
You can skip the cooking of the beets and use the cooked ones (same total weight listed below) that are packaged in the refrigerated produce department of some grocery stores, such as Love Beets brand.
From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.
2 medium red/waxy potatoes, well scrubbed (about 12 ounces total)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise in half (about 7 ounces total)
2 medium beets, scrubbed well (about 10 ½ ounces; see headnote)
1 cup no-salt-added canned white beans, such as navy or cannellini, drained and rinsed
½ cup sauerkraut, drained (see headnote)
⅓ cup diced dill pickles (see headnote)
½ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ tablespoons distilled white vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs, for garnish
Place the potatoes and carrots in a deep saucepan and the beets in a separate deep saucepan. Add cold water to cover each by about an inch and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the vegetables can be pierced with a skewer or paring knife. (They are best cooked until slightly underdone since they will continue to cook as they cool.) Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon after about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and beets once they are done, about 25 minutes for the potatoes and 45 minutes for the beets. Refrigerate until cool.
Use your fingers and/or a paring knife to remove the peel from the beets, then cut the vegetable into ½ -inch dice. Peel and dice the potatoes the same way. Dice the carrots. Combine the potatoes and carrots, plus the beans, sauerkraut, pickles, onion, oil, vinegar and salt in a large bowl and toss to incorporate. Gently fold in the beets.
To serve, garnish each portion with dill sprigs.
More healthful salads from Ellie Krieger:
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