Thursday, June 26, 2014

The First Beets into Shuba

I spent some time in Russia after high school, and this salad takes me straight back.  I adore it on a summer's day with sourdough bread and butter or cheese and a cold beer.  It goes very well with peas of any kind, and sometimes there were peas in the salad, too, in Russia.



For dessert with this shuba, we had a strawberry pie that was divine.  It's this "French" one (a retro Bisquick recipe gussied up with "French").  I used my own tart crust and brushed simple syrup over the berries because I didn't have apple jelly. I'm absolutely going to make this again with whatever fresh fruit is around.



Shuba can be a strange-looking salad if you're not used to violet-colored mash (it's very hard to photograph, by the way).  And you probably should like strong fish in order to like this salad.



I feel a little rustic when I eat this salad, like I should be wearing a dirndl beside a mountain lake with a kerchief on my head and a basket in hand for berries.  I have a clear memory of visiting a friend's dacha (summer house) beside one such lake in the sunshine.  We biked around and swam in the sharply cold water, and then she served us scrambled eggs beside garden zucchini and tomatoes with hot chocolate in a mug. That food tasted like nectar, and years later, I finally understood that the flavor came from the perfect day, from the lake and the pine trees and the little yellow dacha.



Shuba
2 large potatoes
2 large beets
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise, divided
2 3-oz. tins kippered herring or sardines, preferably in oil (bonus points for smoked fish)
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup snipped fresh dill, or 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried dillweed, divided

Place potatoes and beets in baking pan, cover, and bake until soft (about 350 for 1 hour; to shorten the cooking time, slice in half first and place face down).  Or use leftover cooked potatoes and beets.  Allow to cool until you can handle them.  Mash the potatoes (you can peel them if you want) with a potato masher onto a shallow serving bowl, dinner plate, or glass baking dish.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Dollop on 1/4 cup mayonnaise.  Mash or mix again.  Flatten.  Lightly break up the fish and sprinkle evenly over the potato layer.  Sprinkle with onions and half the dill (how I wish I had fresh dill!  Mine gave up the ghost in the hard winter).  Slide the skins off the baked, cooled beets.  Grate.  Sprinkle the grated beets  over the fish/onion/dill layer.  Dollop on the rest of the mayo, 1/4 cup, and use a spatula to spread over the beets; a lovely lavender should emerge from the combination of beets and mayo. Sprinkle with remaining dill. Cover.  Refrigerate at least three hours before serving.

13 comments:

Eva Girl said...

Wow...I'm not very adventurous with food, but I can totally picture you sitting beside the lake - sublime.

Nancy po said...

Oh, that reminds me of one of Bizarre Foods shows in a Russian dacha. It's shows some amazing foods!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TWenTqijiY

I love eastern european foods as I'm part Czech and Russian :) Thanks!

Nancy po said...

That section is in the last 1/4 of the show....

jenny_o said...

I do not care for strong fish, in fact almost any fish, but your writing today was like poetry and I truly enjoyed that.

And now I am craving beets!

momma-lana said...

I have a Muldovan friend and this type of food is the food of her heart. Her American husband told her not to eat some of those things in his presence. :) Poor weak stomached man.

I have a few ripe strawberries left form a batch of strawberry preserves I have started this AM. I may need to make that pie before the day is done.

Nancy po said...

1 question- I'm not a big mayo fan (pretty salty), could you sub sour cream???

Margo said...

Nancy, I would think you could, but I would add some vinegar somewhere to compensate for the vinegar in the mayo.

Nancy po said...

Good idea, thanks...

Judy said...

Enjoyed your post..

Tracy said...

I LOVE kippered herring and beets, so this might have to be tried.

Beth said...

Enjoyed catching up here :-)

I became good friends with a Russian couple when I was in my early 20's. She taught me to make borscht. Oh, my, it was so good. And I'd never had anything with beets in it, until then.

I loved reading your memories here.

Polly said...

I am intrigued. And tempted to try this. REALLY tempted.

The only time I ever had beets that I liked was also in the land of the *dacha* (if that does mean little yellow summer house)--just west of Russia...Finland! The Finns did a lot with beets too and I loved every bite.Here at home I just can't handle them. Maybe I can pull out all the stops and try your shuba....

Rebecca said...

Interesting beet note: I've had some very bitter beets before and blamed it (having read this somewhere) on the lack of boron in the soil. This year I planted two varieties right next to each other. One variety is hideous-bitter and the other is sweet as can be. The sweet variety is one that has NEVER failed me so no more will I stray from the beet truth: the heirloom Bull's Blood. I got my seed from Baker Creek Seeds.

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