The First “Russian Salad” of the Season

It’s getting warmer, finally. After teaching my last class this afternoon I went out for a walk without a jacket on and wearing sandals. The warm weather got me in the mood for an ensaladilla rusa which, literally translated to English, would be “Russian salad.” But really, it’s just a potato salad. Yes, that’s correct, Spain also has its own special version of potato salad. This is what Spanish potato salad looks like in my kitchen, in case you’re curious:

Photo May 27, 4 09 15 PM

If you want to make one of your very own, here’s how to make an ensaladilla rusa for four people:

Step 1: Boil four medium-sized, unpeeled potatoes and a good-sized, peeled carrot in a big pot of salted water. It should take roughly 30 minutes to cook them. When they’re done, remove them from the water and let them cool on the counter.

Step 2: Cook some frozen peas in the microwave. Shock them in cold water.

Step 3: Hard boil two eggs. Let them cool.

Step 4: When the potatoes  and the carrot have cooled, peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes. Cut the carrot anyway you like (julienne, slices, medium-sized dice).

Step 4: Combine potatoes, carrot, and peas in a bowl. Also, add some drained, canned, solid white tuna to the bowl. In Spain all that’s available is tuna packed in oil so, to make it truly Spanish, use that kind. If you worry about fat, use solid white tuna packed in water and just Americanize it. I wouldn’t recommend using chunk light tuna but if that’s what you like I won’t ever know!

Step 5: Add some salt to the bowl if you like, to taste. Moisten the mixture with mayonnaise. Use as much mayonnaise as you usually do for your normal potato salad. In Spanish restaurants this salad is practically swimming in mayo and I hate that!

Step 6: Peel and slice the hard-boiled eggs. Decorate the top with the slices.

Step 7: Decorate the top of the salad with green manzanilla olives. You can use pitted or un-pitted, whichever you prefer.

Step 8: Chill in the fridge before serving. This should be enough for 4 people.

Now, of course, an ensaladilla rusa can be as unique as you are. The recipe, above, is for the typical one you can find just about anywhere in Spain but, as with everything, there are always regional and restaurant variations. In Madrid, for example, you are very likely to find your serving of “Russian salad” garnished with red strips of pimiento along with the olives and hard-boiled egg slices. I prefer to mix the tuna in with the potato and carrot and other people like to use the tuna as an additional garnish. Basically, it’s just a potato salad. Enjoy!

And now, for the crafty talk. My knitting club has decided to start a CAL because, apparently, here in Spain the Wayuu bag is going to be fashionable this summer. If you are wondering what a Wayuu is, I’ll tell you: it’s a Native American ethnic group from Colombia that makes crocheted bags with interesting, colorful designs. I decided to join the fun because my mother is going to be having a birthday soon. Since the point is to be summery, I picked some bright colors. Here’s my progress so far:

Photo May 26, 3 43 43 PM

As you can see, it’s just nice and easy tapestry crochet. I’ve crocheted this way before, but never for a bag and I can’t believe I never thought of it on my own. Using cotton yarn creates a very firm fabric that won’t need a lining. I decided to use a cotton-synthetic blend just in case my colors run in the washing but a lot of people are going with DMC Natura because, let’s face it, the colors for that yarn are outrageously beautiful.

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