More photos here Photos by Siiri Lind
Food competitions organized by Liisi Vanaselja have become a small tradition here in the New York Estonian House – the competition got started two years ago with the “pirukate” (Estonian small pies) contest, Estonian potato salad was in competition last year and this year’s event was to see who has the best secret recipe for “Rosolje” (Estonian beet salad).
This year seven different recipes were presented, and each one had to be evaluated on a 5-point scale. The rosolje was divided into numbered cups. The salad which tasted great got five points and the one not so much was given fewer points. Scorecards and pencils were distributed and the contest began. Well, every food is a “matter of taste”, and as long as the filled cups remained on the table the discussion continued as to which bite tasted the best.
It was a good thing that this time there were only 7 Rosolje makers – Ingrid Karuks, Toomas Sõrra, Reet Tagger, Aire Salmre, Kadri Kroon, Rita Illison, Raina Woo. Everyone got quite full from all the tastings and more would not have fit. My favorite salad had a nice mustard taste which I later found was made by Toomas Sõrra.
Kadri Kroon’s Rosolje got third place. Second place went to Reet Taggert, and the first prize went to Rita Ilisson’s recipe. Rita herself was not present at the contest; her Rosolje recipe was prepared by Kadri Kroon. Kadri accepted Rita’s prize and told everyone that this will definitely bring a lot of joy to Rita.
This is Rita’s family recipe. As a youngster Rita lived in New York City and then moved to Sweden where she married a Finn. Most of the time since Estonia’s independence, Rita has lived in Estonia with her children. She is turning 60 on Estonia’s Independence Day.
Kadri: “Rita makes this Rosolje recipe at her family’s special gatherings. It is loved by her family and also by many of her international students. Rita published this recipe on the Estonian Cooking Facebook Page. That’s where I came upon this recipe and since the recipe was so interesting, I asked Rita if she would like to participate in our contest where I would make the salad under her name. I even mentioned to her that I really hope you win. And so it happened. Rita will be in New York for her birthday and I will present the prize to her in person.”
We look forward to the next food contest, it’s too bad that we have to wait a whole year for it.
Rita Illison’s Winning Rosolje Recipe
4 small onions
finely diced 5 cloves of garlic
finely diced (I prefer not to crush) 10 pickles – cut lengthwise into wedges
and sliced 10 medium-sized new potatoes – cubed (new potatoes retain their texture).
Boil the cubed potatoes and rinse once to stop the cooking process. Honey dijon mustard to taste (otherwise use 2-3 tbsp honey and the same amount of mustard).
Add 300 ml mayonnaise and 250 ml sour cream and pour over with some of the pickle and beet pickling liquid. Stir gently.
3 apples (tart/sour like Granny Smiths)
diced 600 -700 g smoked ham (in one piece, remove all fat and rind)
cubed 4 herring filets – marinated and diced.
Do not use marinated herring from a jar- it turns into mush. Marinate the fillets in onion, garlic, dill, parsley, cloves, salt,pepper, a dash fo brown sugar and wine vinegar.
1200 g of pickled beets – diced.
We have excellent pickled beets. If you do not – pickle your own.
a fistfull of dill
use scissors to snip the juice of 2 lemons. Gently stir. You want it to be pink, sweet/sour/salty and not too dry or wet. You will probably need to add about 200 ml mayonnaise and 150 sourcream to make it bind properly. Stir gently and season with salt and pepper. If it is not pickled enough – add more pickling liquid, lemon or wine vinegar. Wait for an hour before taking any additional measures. Once you have tasted a good rendition – you have to improvise with the seasoning to get it just right.