Some food bloggers never cook the same thing twice. I’m the opposite. My cooking repertoire includes a few dozen dishes that I make over and over. One of them is this creamy beet salad. I do tweak my recipes like crazy, but I’ve never messed with beet salad until today.
The Russian cookbook Please to the Table has an intriguing recipe for beets mixed with walnuts and cognac-soaked prunes. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a while because it gives humble Russian beet salad a pre-Revolutionary, French-tinged air. Actually, the final result isn’t so different from my usual version, but the boozy prunes and walnuts do give the salad a crunchy punch.
Here’s what you do: Wash a couple of beets, cover with cold water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the beets are easily pierced with a knife, 50-60 minutes. In the meantime, hard boil two eggs and prepare the prunes.
In a small saucepan, heat up ¼ cup cognac (um, Jack Daniel's is all I had on hand) until it boils, remove from heat and soak a handful of prunes in the warm alcohol for 30 minutes. Then finely chop the prunes (reserve the alcohol), mix them with a minced garlic clove and ½ cup of finely chopped walnuts.
Let the beets and eggs cool to room temperature; peel them; then grate over a large salad bowl. Add the prunes, nuts and garlic to the bowl. Peel and finely chop a cucumber, a handful of fresh dill and a small wedge of red onion; add to the salad. (I’m often tempted to add a little feta cheese to this salad, although it's not at all Russian.)
For the dressing, combine a few tablespoons each of sour cream and mayo; 2-3 tbs. of the reserved cognac; a tablespoon of sunflower oil; a good splash of vinegar; ½ tsp. sugar; and a dash each of salt and black ground pepper. Feel free to tweak the dressing ingredients to taste. Dress the salad and mix well. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.