Rye Blini with Quick-Pickled Beets and Gravlax

By Patrice Johnson |

For a few years I’ve been pickling every vegetable and fruit I could get my hands on. It started with cucumbers then moved on to mustard seeds and rhubarb. Diced, sliced and chopped: I fill jars with apple relish and Giardiniera, tomato jelly and bacon jam, mostarda and dilled chili peppers. I knew I had a problem when there were more pickles than actual food in my refrigerator.

Yet, it took an Italian brasserie to show me the beauty of a Midwestern condiment.

The server presented a plate with three perfect blini topped with cured salmon, horseradish cream, and the prettiest pickled beets I’d ever seen. The beets were glistening jewels diced into tiny ruby beads, and they burst in my mouth like sweet earthy caviar. The lowly pickled beet became an ultimate summer essence.

Quick pickled beets are the ideal crown for rye blini, tart chèvre, and gravlax (in Minnesota, trout is our “local salmon” and it cures quickly in sugar, salt and vodka). These blini make a delicious and pretty first course.

Patrice writes a food column that is published weekly in The Gaylord Hub and a blog that is devoted to food, Scandinavian and Americana pop culture. In her spare time, she volunteers with the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Cooking Matters (Share Our Strength), Slow Food Minnesota, and for the Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference.


Quick-Pickled Yellow Beet

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1 large red beet , diced fine

1 star anise

10 red peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt


3 ounces chévre

3 ounces sour cream

Blini Batter

1 teaspoon yeast

3 tablespoons warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup whole milk

2 eggs , separated

1/2 cup rye flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons melted butter


4 ounces smoke d salmon

2 chives , finely sliced


Photo: Patrice Johnson

Pickle the beet:

1. Bring sugar and vinegar to simmer; add beets, anise, peppercorns, and salt. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes (shorter for a good crunch, longer for softer beets). Remove from heat and add ¾ cups ice. Chill until serving.

Make the sour-chévre:

1. Combine chèvre cheese with sour cream until smooth.

Make the blinis:

1. In small bowl stir together yeast, water, and sugar and rise until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In large mixing bowl whisk together yeast mixture, milk, egg yolks, and salt; cover and let alone for 1 hour.

3. Beat to stiff peaks egg whites. Fold whites into batter. Stir in melted butter; set aside 10 minutes.

4. Heat non-stick skillet to medium. Drop 1 tablespoon of batter on to skillet for each pancake; work in small batches. Cook about 1 to 2 minutes; flip when bubbles appear on surface of each cake and continue cooking additional 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cover cooked blini covered to keep warm before serving.


1. Top each blini with a bite of gravlax, a teaspoon of sour-Chèvre, red or yellow beet, and a sprinkle of chopped chives.