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Mimosa salad is a Soviet festive salad composed primarily of apples, cheese, onion, and eggs. It is named after mimosa flowers, which the eggs' yolks resemble when crushed. You typically make it once or twice over the holidays, but it can be made to celebrate anything important or even to delight a guest. It has many variants in composition, and if you google it, many will say you must add fish, but in my house I will do no such thing.

It is a layered salad, which means it is prepared by layering each ingredient in a bowl, one on top of the other in a specific order, and repeating this cycle until the bowl is full or you have run out of ingredients. In practice, this means that depending on your generosity and the size of your bowl, how much of each ingredient you need will vary. My salad bowl is about 10 cm high, 20 cm in diameter at the top, and rather wide at the base (16 cm diameter?). Each cycle is about 2 to 2.5 cm high when assembling the salad, so I can get either four or five cycles, and this is optimal, but if you do three or six I won't call the cops.

The ingredients, in the order first-goes-on-the-bottom last-on-top, are below. The quantities are an estimate of how much I use per cycle, so multiply that by four or five for a full bowl. If you are making this salad for the first time, overestimate each ingredient and then find somewhere to use the leftovers. The rough proportions are important so you should not get too creative without clear intentions.

  • 14 of a large white onion, peeled and finely chopped. I prefer to make extremely thin radial cuts, so that it falls into long thin shreds when the layers separate. If you are hardcore or just want a little more of a zing, you may upgrade to the less sweet yellow onion. Just a thin layer will do, don't go overboard or the onion will be too strong.
  • 100g of cheddar cheese, grated or well-crumbled. I recommend a mature cheddar, for the flavour, and if you can afford it get something expensive, but any cheddar will do, even marble. This can be a creamy and flavourful addition to the salad but its main purpose is to slightly separate the onion and the apples and balance the acidity a little, so don't add too much.
  • 1 14 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and freshly grated. In my opinion, there is no substitute for Granny Smith, but if I had to pick a replacement apple, I would look for something juicy and with a tarty or zesty flavour, like a McIntosh. Too little apple is way worse than too much apple, so err on the side of more. The juices from the apples will flow down, softening the cheese layer and mellowing the onions.
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise. I'm sorry if you don't like mayo as a dressing but we need a thick, stable condiment with this kind of light flavour and sealing ability. Spread it thin but make sure there are no gaps, so that the apples are protected from undue oxygen.
  • 1 hard boiled egg, crushed with a fork into a bunch of tiny bits and sprinkled on. There is not a lot of it per layer. You won't miss the egg much if it's gone, so it might be better to omit than replace with something like tofu or whatever. But the egg yolk on the top of the last layer is a very distinctive, characteristic look.

When you're done assembling the salad, cover it with plastic wrap (or a lid if you are using a lidded container) and pop it in the fridge for at least eight hours, or better yet overnight. It needs some time to settle and soak. After that, it will survive for a few days in the fridge, but will probably get sloppy and bad after a week. Not that I would know: it always disappears very quickly at my house...

Some assembly tips:

  • Don't peel or grate the apples until just before you need to put them on. They are very susceptible to browning when peeled and even more so when grated, but there is not much oxygen when sealed in the salad, so they will look more appealing, as well as get more of the juices into the salad instead of on the cutting board. It's maybe less convenient, but worth it.
  • If you want to grate all your cheese ahead of time, you can pop it in the fridge when you do the other layers so that it doesn't get warm and soft and hard to handle.
  • It helps to periodically flatten the salad. Just press down a little with your hand. It doesn't hurt to bring the ingredients closer, and you might sneak in that fifth layer.
  • To make the salad appear more vibrant, compose the last egg layer entirely out of yolks, by subbing out some of the yolks in an earlier layer with whites. The yellower the egg yolks, the better! If your hard boiled eggs' yolks always turn out a little gray, try cooling the eggs down in cold water after they cook.
  • The way I remember the layer order is apple-centric: onions go below the apples for the juice; cheese between apples and onions for a buffer; mayo above the apples to seal it; eggs on top so that it looks like the namesake flowers.

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