While I was doing a few errands last week, my husband was busy in the kitchen preparing a traditional Polish salad called Salatka Jarzynowa.
Apparently, my mother-in-law made this salad for holiday meals, but I had never tasted it until we took in Polish refugees during Solidarity.
Our female guest had gone to culinary school and was often willing to help prepare our meals. The dishes she created were traditional Polish fare.
Salatka Jarzynowa contains potatoes, but it is quite different from the potato salads we eat here. I consider it to be more of a cooked vegetable salad.
As with many recipes, there are varying opinions about the origin of Salatka Jarzynowa.
One story says the salad originated in Russia. Lucien Oliver, a Belgian chef who operated a restaurant in Moscow, is credited for creating this dish, but he was very secretive about the recipe. His assistant was said to have watched carefully to see how the salad was prepared and then he sold the recipe to others.
One of the reasons this salad is so popular in Poland is that it contains many of the same vegetables as Polish chicken soup. After making the soup, the housewives would use the leftover vegetables like carrots, celery root, and parsley root, plus potatoes, eggs, pickles, peas, and mayonnaise to make a salad. Some recipes even contained apple chunks to add a bit of sweetness.
Salatka Jarzynowa became extremely popular in Poland during the '60s through the '80s. It also goes by the names of Vegetable Salad, Russian Salad, or Trash Salad.
Just like potato salad, this Polish vegetable salad has many variations. This is my husband’s recipe.
Mixed Vegetable Salad (Salatka Jarzynowa)
1 cup peeled diced apples
½ cup diced onion
½ cup peeled, diced dill pickles
5 or 6 diced pickled mushrooms
1 cup diced cooked potatoes
1 cup diced cooked carrots
1 cup cooked onion
½ cup cooked or canned peas
1½ cup basic mayonnaise sauce (recipe below).
The secret of a good Polish vegetable salad is to have all ingredients diced very fine -- no larger than a green pea. In a salad bowl, combine above listed ingredients except mayonnaise sauce. Toss ingredients gently to mix and then blend in sauce. The proportions are strictly orientational, so ingredients can be added or omitted or limited to personal taste.
Basic Mayonnaise Sauce
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon pickle brine
In a medium mixing bowl, add mayonnaise, sour cream, and pickle brine.
Snip 1 tablespoon of fresh dill into the mixture.
Add 1½ teaspoons salt.