This classic Russian garden salad recipe makes the Russian take on the simple tossed green salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion. The addition of fresh dill and pink radishes add fragrance and crunch, setting it apart from other European garden salads. It’s the perfect accompaniment to hearty Russian dishes.
My classic Russian garden salad recipe makes a simple green salad that my baboushka served with every family meal when I was growing up in Sydney in the Seventies. As simple as the salad sounds, it was the perfect companion to heartier dishes she served, such as Russian cabbage rolls, borscht, beetroot and potato salad, and vareniki and pelmeni (Russian dumplings).
My baba’s garden salad was exceptional, because most of the ingredients were just picked from papa’s backyard vegetable garden. Baba and papa had a market garden in Seven Hills when they were younger, and papa grew vegetables in their backyard at Blacktown – and also had chooks, made pickles and distilled vodka. Papa’s tomatoes were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted, his radishes the zestiest, and his cucumbers the crunchiest.
Those three ingredients there – tomato, cucumber and radish – comprised Papa’s breakfast each day, along with a slice of Russian black rye bread, a boiled egg, maybe some pickled herring, a sneaky shot of his homemade vodka, and always a knob of garlic for good health.
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Classic Russian Garden Salad Recipe for Every Russian Meal
Our classic Russian garden salad recipe makes the Russian take on the simple tossed green salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion… it could be any Mediterranean salad – add feta cheese and Kalamata olives and you’ve got a Greek salad; add olives, radicchio and pepperoncini and you’re in Italy; sumac and pita crisps and you’re in Lebanon munching on fattoush; and boiled eggs, tuna and potato, and you have an ensalada mixta in Spain.
It’s the addition of fresh dill and pink radishes, which add the aroma and crunch that set this classic Russian garden salad apart from other European garden salads and make it the perfect match for heartier Russian dishes. The salad also ensures the meal is balanced, that there is balance across the table, keeping in mind that family meals are comprised of a number of dishes to be shared.
Tips to Making This Classic Russian Garden Salad Recipe
My top tip to making this classic garden salad recipe is to use the freshest possible ingredients you can find. My baba’s salads were so good because they were made with papa’s home-grown organic vegetables: just-picked vine-ripened tomatoes, radishes not-long plucked from the ground, and cucumbers still warm from the sun.
If you have the luxury of growing your own veggies, pick them as close as possible to making your salad. If you don’t, try to buy them the same day from a vegetable grocer rather than a supermarket. Either way, do refrigerate them for a short time beforehand so they’re nice and chilled, especially in summer.
My other tip for making this classic Russian garden salad recipe is to make it at the last minute, especially if you’re preparing half a dozen dishes for a shared family meal. Cabbage rolls and pelmeni and vareneki and the like can be kept warm in casserole pots and baking dishes in the oven, but there’s no way to save lettuce from wilting.
Classic Russian Garden Salad Recipe
- 3 tomatoes - medium sized , quartered
- 3 cucumbers - small, sliced on an angle
- 3 shallots - small, sliced
- 4 radishes - small, thinly sliced
- leaves iceberg lettuce
- dill - fresh
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove - very finely chopped
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground peppercorns
- Toss the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, shallots, radishes, lettuce and dill in a salad bowl.
- Combine virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, sea salt, and ground peppercorns in a small jug to dress the salad just before serving, then toss again. Garnish with additional dill when serving.
Do let us know if you make our classic Russian garden salad recipe in the comments below, by email or on social media, as we’d love to know what you think.