Today I received an Easter message from my mother in law. She wrote- “Life is full of promise! God is with us – and before us! We can choose to act on that!” She also wrote about all of the beautiful early spring plants that are coming up in Tennessee. I thought about her lovely message as I made this salad inspired by a beet salad called Rosolje that my Estonian grandmother (I called her Ema) used to make. My Ema was a woman who went to church every morning in her vegetable garden. She nurtured the good that the earth had to offer through her actions.
This is not a real Rosolje. Rosolje is a chopped beet salad made with pickled herring and sour cream and other things that are particular to individual cooks. It is bright pink and delicious. A Ukrainian neighbor of a friend of mine brought something over to a house party that I attended recently, and I was the only one who ate it. It’s a shame because it really is good, but it’s just not the sort of thing that people go for these days I guess. I wanted to make a version of Rosolje for Easter that would be appealing to our friends. I decided that I would use smoked fish instead of pickled herring and I also decided to present it as a composed salad. People like to mix things together themselves, especially if the ingredients are unfamiliar. Also, I realized that all of the ingredients that my Ema included in her version of Rosolje were round like eggs and I thought it would be nice if the salad could look like a nest where several different species of birds were all laying their eggs.
So here is my version of Rosolje. It has a nest with of lettuce and chopped beets with a duck egg (my Ema kept ducks), a little potato egg, several green pea eggs and a radish egg. It would have been nice if I had baby beets so that there could be a beet egg, but the only beets I could find were giant so I chopped them. I used smoked salmon, but smoked trout would be better and that is what I will use for Easter dinner tomorrow. I made the dressing out of sour cream, homemade mayonnaise, dill and chives. It tasted good, but I missed the pickled element and ended up throwing some capers and a bit of raspberry vinegar in after the fact.
- 2 leafs of washed and dried butter or boston lettuce for each person
- 1 duck egg for each guest (chicken eggs would be fine as well)
- 1 baby beet or 1/2 of a large beet for each person
- 1 tiny new potato for each person
- 1/4 cup of fresh green peas for each person
- 1 radish for each person
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup homemade mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup fresh minced dill (plus extra sprigs for garnish)
- 1/4 cup fresh minced chives
- 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- a small slice of smoked fish for each person (trout or some other white fish would be best)
- capers, small pickles or diced sour apple
- Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and use them to line each guest’s bowl.
- Place the duck eggs in a sauce pan with enough cold water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil and then remove the pot from the heat and allow the eggs to sit for 10-12 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and put them in ice bath to prevent further cooking.
- Scrub and boil the beets until they are tender. Set them aside to cool.
- Scrub and steam or boil the new potatoes until they are tender. Set them aside to cool.
- Place the peas in a steamer over boiling water for 5 minutes and then shock them in cold water.
- While everything is cooling, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, dill, chives, vinegar, salt and pepper to make the dressing.
- When the beets are cool, slip them out of their skins. If they are large, dice them and put them on top of the lettuce in each guest’s bowl. If they are small, slice them into about four slices and then place one inside each lettuce nest so that they retain their round shape.
- When the potatoes are cool slice them into about four slices each and place one inside each lettuce nest so that they retain their round shape.
- Scrub the radishes. Slice them into about four slices each and place one inside each lettuce nest so they retain their round shape.
- Peel the duck eggs. Slice each one in half and place inside the lettuce nest.
- Sprinkle the peas over each salad.
- Garnish each salad with a dollop of the dressing, a bit of smoked fish, a sprig or two of dill and capers, pickles or diced apples.