Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pass the Salad, Comrade

Look what's in our fridge this weekend! It's a truly nostalgic food - one that Jane and Michael Stern call "preeminently modern" in their classic cookbook of bygone foods, Square Meals. It's jiggly, almost foolproof, and comes in fabulous colors that are not-found-in-nature. Have you guessed? It's Jell-O! Actually it's not plain Jell-O . . . it's a congealed salad. Yes, that staple of '60s suburbia. This particular salad was prepared by my mom for years and I still love it - and I think you will, too.

I'm adding this to my list of foods that are really tricky to photograph; Jell-O has nudged soup from the top of the list! But, you can get an idea of how colorful this salad is - and also don't miss my grandmother's Fire King bowl - what better dish for a congealed salad?

The really funny thing about this salad is its name: Russian Salad. Of course, calling this a salad is a stretch - it's not a salad in the fresh, crispy, lightly prepared sense. But, it is a salad in the 'wouldn't be perfect as a main course' sense. Actually, we like it as a cool, summer dessert. And why is it called Russian Salad? Who knows? The Cold War apparently held a fascination with cooks - just look at the recipes from the '50s and '60s that have nothing to do with real Russian food: Russian Dressing, Russian Tea (of course this is made with space-age Tang!), and this salad.

If you'd to try this sweet, fruity, retro salad - here's the recipe:

Russian Salad

1 small pkg. lime Jell-O
3/4 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (3 oz. ) cream cheese
14 marshmallows, cut into small pieces
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, with juice
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise (light mayo is fine)
3/4 to 1 cup diced bananas
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Combine Jell-O, boiling water, cream cheese, and marshmallows over low heat and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. In a small bowl, toss bananas with lemon juice, set aside. Add pineapple, milk, and mayonnaise to Jell-O mixture, mix well. Fold in bananas and nuts. Chill.



  1. This doesn't sound bad, although I'm not so sure about the marshmallows. It's just that when I first looked at the pictures, they made me think of guacamole...and my taste buds were sort of stuck there. I may be the only one, but I really like aspic, and I love the idea of savory gelatins.

  2. I love this stuff, but never knew how to make it. There used to be a restaurant near where I worked that served this. Now I can make it myself.

  3. Christine - I know . . . marshmallows aren't the first ingredient that comes to mind for any dish! And in real life it's more lime colored than guac colored. I wish I liked savory gelatins - the idea of aspic is appealing, but I just don't care for it - I think it's a combination of the drab colors and texture (for some reason Jell-O in vivid colors seems more palatable).

    Tammy - A diner close to my old office always had this salad on Tuesdays and it often sold out. I'm glad you can make it yourself now!


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