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Vintage Veg

Vintage Veg

Russian Salad

February 26, 2021

I laughed when I saw it. Delightedly chortled, more like, to see that the New York Times was running a recipe story featuring that thousands-of-renditions Slavic home food: Russian Salad. I’d just confessed my love for the stuff the day before to a friend, as if whispering a guilty pleasure. And now the Times had legitimized it. Classically a mosaic of colorful and carefully diced carrot and potato, plus peas and ham, bathed in mayo, I’d long ago found making variations on the Russian Salad theme to be a “treaty” way to eat veg. I make it using everything from trimmed stalks of broccoli (steamed the tiniest bit to tender them) or with celery root, jicama, radish, kohlrabi, and maybe a little cheese, skipping any meat inclusions entirely. But the classic version is good, too.

Near my house, Russian Salad is everywhere. Just travel up the road in Skokie-Evanston to the various mom-and-pop grocers and you’ll find it ready made both plain and fancy. Layered in clear bowls with piped swirls of cream on top, the fancy versions look like frilly parfaits.

As it turns out, fancy is actually a throw-back: The salad’s genesis was quite gourmet. Food historians place its origins in Moscow where a French chef named Lucien Olivier served it starting in the 1860s at the Hermitage restaurant, mixing in everything from caviar and crawfish tails, to capers and veal tongue. Oh, and Lucien slathered his in Provencal dressing. Post Russian Revolution, the salad took on the proletariat stylings that survive today.

With a nod to Olivier, my version of the current classic dolls things up a bit with home-made mayo, sour cream, dill, and quail eggs. Plus, pickled beets that you mix in at the very end. 

My recipe also relies—as the NYTimes version does—on careful, even dicing. Trimming and cutting the ingredients to uniform size makes for good balance, mouth feel and presentation. P.S.—Don’t hold back on your own variations! Let me know what you come up with—I’d love to see. Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Brussels Sprouts (Petals with Bacon & Onion)

December 17, 2020

Today it was an impulse buy. But seeing those beautiful, almost prehistoric looking stalks of Brussels sprouts, I couldn’t resist. I love them! For a while, I had relegated the little green globes, which the French endearingly call “petit choux” (little cabbage) to the bottom of my vegetable list. The “why” was simple: During my childhood, my mom overcooked them, thinking the result would be milder and more palatable. But overcooking Brussels sprouts leaches out their sulfurous-smelling, cancer-preventative compounds, making them soggy and less nutritious. Writing for WebMD magazine about better ways to prepare them, I perfected this simple, delicious recipe: A delicious quick saute of  brussels sprouts petals, with diced onion, bacon and the tiniest drizzle of maple syrup. To make it, the only fiddly part is removing the tiny cabbage cores. You just poke the tip of a sharp knife in the base of each one, twist and cut that little piece out. Then, you can easily pluck the petals apart, wash them well, and saute. As a side dish, this is fantastic with poultry. Please enjoy! Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Whitehall Club Creamed Spinach

November 21, 2017

Established as a private-dining club in Chicago’s boutique Whitehall Hotel in 1956, The Whitehall Club was a fine-dining fixture for 40 years before it closed. That left LRF reader Dave Lauer with an insatiable craving for Whitehall Club creamed spinach. LRF reached out to now-Colorado-based Jason Rogers–one of the last sous chefs at the Club–who was happy to share the recipe. Built with an Escoffier-styled bechamel (white sauce steeped with onion, veal, nutmeg, clove and thyme,) this home-cook-sized version of the dish yields both creamy spinach, plus a serving of milk-braised veal–delicious mixed with orzo, or Israeli couscous. For another delicious creamed spinach, try our Texas-style Jalapeno Creamed Spinach Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Sunchokes Two Ways: Soup & Smashed Potato

December 9, 2016

Earthy, sexy, silky, sunchokes beguile. To me, they’re like truffles in their scent and ability to make you crave just a little bit more. Peeled, simmered and pureed, these unlovely-looking little lumps transform into a beautifully aromatic soup. Or simmered and smashed with spinach, potato and garlic they make a delicious, original side. Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Jalapeno Creamed Spinach

November 2, 2016

Creamed spinach–Texas style! Sans canned-creamed-soup and minus the processed cheese, this is a gourmet side dish worthy of birthday dinners and holiday feasts. The pickled jalapeno adds a lot to the flavor–one of my boys begs for it : ) Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Whitehall Club Creamed Spinach

September 20, 2016

Established as a private-dining club in Chicago’s boutique Whitehall Hotel in 1956, The Whitehall Club was a fine-dining fixture for 40 years before it closed. That left LRF reader Dave Lauer with an insatiable craving for Whitehall Club creamed spinach. Fixable : ) I reached out to now-Colorado-based Jason Rogers–one of the last sous chefs at the Club–who was happy to share the recipe. Built with an Escoffier-styled bechamel (white sauce steeped with onion, veal, nutmeg, clove and thyme,) this home-cook-sized version of the dish yields both creamy spinach, plus a serving of milk-braised veal–delicious mixed with orzo, or Israeli couscous. For another kick-ass creamed spinach, try our Texas-style Jalapeno version. Continue Reading…