This classic Russian salad includes the beet tops as well as the vivid pink roots. In Russia it forms part of zakuski   appetizers alongside small dishes of sliced salami, smoked fish, pickled cucumber, and tomato salad. I like to serve the salad with cooked ham, or cold pork, chicken or turkey as an entrée salad. If your beets don’t have tops, substitute a few leaves of spinach or chard.

Serves 6 as an appetizer or side dish

  • 1½ pounds beets with tops
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 scallions, sliced including the green tops

Sweet Russian dressing

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 heaping teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. To cook beets and potatoes: trim off tops, leaving an inch of green stem on roots. Do not trim roots (they bleed if cut). Put roots in a pan of cold salted water, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender when pierced with a skewer, 20-35 minutes depending on size. Drain and leave them to cool. Cut beet tops crosswise in ½-inch slices. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add beet tops and boil until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water and leave to drain thoroughly. Put potatoes in a pan of cold salted water, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain them and set aside.

2. For dressing: Put the sugar, mustard, paprika and caraway seed in a large bowl with salt and pepper. Whisk in the honey and mayonnaise, followed by the white wine and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.

3. To mix the salad: Trim tops and roots from beets and slip off cooked skins with your fingers. Cut beets in 3/8-inch dice and stir into dressing. Peel potatoes, dice them also and stir into beets. Add beet tops and scallions and stir gently together. Taste the salad, adding more of any of the dressing seasonings. Serve chilled or at room temperature. This salad keeps well up to 2 days, but scallion should be added just before serving.

Photo Credit: Simon Cherniavsky