February 8, 2013

Ukrainian Beet Salad


Not long ago, we had a visit from, Jerry & Sally and Mike & Libba, good friends from MFH's earliest days with the airlines.

MFH was a new-hire at Eastern Airlines when he was jump-seating back home to California from Miami one day to visit us. Jerry was a pilot on the flight and, as soon as he discovered MFH was a new-hire recently assigned to Boston, Jerry called for a flight attendant to come up to the cockpit. That flight attendant was Sally and, as it turned out, she had a house not far from the airport in Boston, where she rented rooms to pilots in need of temporary lodging.

Are you keeping up?

So, MFH was flying home to California for Grant's first birthday. When he arrived, he was excited to see us, of course -- but he was most eager to share his good news. He told me he had found a place to live in Boston that we could actually afford, while I stayed in California, working and trying to sell our house. When he got back to Boston, he would be moving in with a flight attendant -- and -- I was really going to like her.

I promise! That is exactly what he said! Do I really need to tell you that I was a little less than excited.

All I could think of was the book Coffee, Tea or Me?, written by Trudy Baker in the late 60s and, by the way, still available from Amazon used books for $.02 -- which is just about what I thought the future of our marriage was worth at that moment!

There I was, taking care of a house, a pool, a baby and a fulltime job -- which btw was supporting our little family during this career change -- while he, apparently, was off in Miami, being indoctrinated into a lifestyle that seemed to be ... well ... just a little different than I expected! And then, this BOMBSHELL!

He was moving in with a flight attendant.

And that was supposed to be a good thing!

Because I would LIKE her?

We were most certainly at the beginning of the end!

As it turns out ... and damn lucky for him too ... he was right about Sally. Renting a room from her was the perfect way to begin his airline career and make friends. There were so many people in and out of her house all the time that he soon knew lots of pilots and a few flight attendants too. And almost always had someone to share meals with, which is important when you travel for a living.

And he was also right about me liking her. Sally has become a dear friend. We love the same things -- shopping, decorating and cooking. She is probably the best cook I know -- absolutely fearless in the kitchen, whether cooking for one or one hundred, and is devoted to fresh ingredients, impeccable seasoning and uncomplicated preparation.

So back to her visit and the salad she made for dinner one night.

This salad recipe is one Sally learned from Annya, a Ukrainian exchange student who came to live with them for a year, as a high school student in 1994. Well, since then, she has graduated from high school and college, gotten a job, gotten married and is now a U.S. citizen -- but that's a story for another day. Annya has shared several family recipes with Sally over the years and we're always happy to sample them and get a taste of Ukraine. I'll admit, the idea of mixing these ingredients does sound a little unusual at first, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the odd combination made for a delicious new way to enjoy fresh beets. And that's a good thing for beet lovers and a nice change of pace from a lettuce salad.

Note to self: Ask Annya if they really use Hellman's mayonnaise in Ukraine, or that's just Sally's adaptation.


ANNYA’S UKRAINIAN BEET SALAD
2 ½ lbs. fresh beets (2 ½ cups roasted shredded beets)
½ cup chopped prunes
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
¼ cup sour cream
¼ Hellman’s mayonnaise
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash beets; coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on baking sheet. Roast in oven for 2 – 2 ½ hours. Cool beets and remove skins. Grate beets into medium size bowl; add chopped prunes and toasted walnuts. Mix sour cream and mayonnaise and stir into beets. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until serving.
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