Insalata Russa for Food ‘n Flix

I’m glad I Am Love (Io Sono L’Amore) was an Italian film subtitled in English.   (I Am Love is the Food ‘n Flix feature film for June, hosted by Evelyne at CulturEatz.   You can see her announcement post here.)  Otherwise, I don’t know that I would have watched it in it’s entirety.    Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful film, but I don’t think I could have made it through if the film had been, let’s say, set in New York with an American-aristocratic old-money family.  (Sounds like an Edith Wharton novel.)

I Am Love (Io Sono L’Amore) thankfully had that whole foreign film mystique-thing working in its favor.

I am love

The Italian language, scenery, fashion, and food was the film for me.

(I am jumping into my perspective of the film.  If you haven’t seen the film and would like a plot summary, click here.)

Tilda Swinton (Emma) is always luminescent but she is even more so as the Russian born wife of a wealthy Italian textile magnate.  She was glowing  throughout the film and not just in the food porn prawn scene or the other literal sex scenes.

The youngest daughter, Betta, is played by Alba Rohrwacher.  Similarities can certainly be drawn  between Rohrwacher’s physical beauty and Swinton’s.  When I first saw the film, I was convinced that she must be Swinton’s actual daughter.  (Swinton’s real daughter actually did have a few appearances in some of the brief flashbacks, playing Emma during her childhood in Russia.)


Swinton and Rohrwacher

A plot parallel develops concerning both the mother and daughter’s awakenings.  Betta confides in her mother that she is in love with her female art instructor.  Emma, of course, is finding herself in a young chef.  In the final scene, Betta and her mother share a knowing look, an acknowledgement that each knows the other’s secrets, triumphs, hardships and joys in their respective found loves.

Marisa Berenson plays the family’s matriarch, Rori (short for Allegra) in a cool, classic Italian sort of way.

Marisa Berenson

Ida, Emma’s maid, is a bit stereotypical as the dutiful servant but Emma reaches out to her many times during the film, to sit with her, to eat with her, and it is Ida that assists in Emma’s escape.

Maria Paiato

The characterization of these women are shown in bits and pieces.   Allegra gifts art work to perspective wives soon to join the Recchi clan.   There are clues of Emma’s childhood in Russia, short snippets that hint at something perhaps innocent, something perhaps sinister.   We never know Emma’s real name; she just tells Antonio that Emma is not her given name.  Betta is interesting to watch as she explores her art and her sexuality.

The women are more interesting than the men in this film.

Edoardo Sr. is the firm and stern aging patriarch of the family who seems to rule with an iron fist.  No one would dare contradict him.

Tancredi, the son that is soon to take over the business, doesn’t even seem one-dimensional.

Edoardo, or Edo, is the ill-fated idealistic son.  His idealism is juxtaposed with his stereotypical rich-kid lifestyle.

Antonio is the outsider, the every-man, the person who must work for a living.   Other than his dream of opening a restaurant on family land in the hill country (and his lust for Emma), we know little about him.

Definitely, the women were more intriguing.

Since Antonio is a chef and his occupation is what brings him to the attention of the Recchi family (that and his friendship/rivalry with Edo), there is much food in the film.   Some of it was quite confusing to pin down.   There were lots of fresh herbs and produce, either in the Recchi’s well-staffed kitchen or outside of Antonio’s restaurant.

I thought I saw Ida unwrapping a Pannetone, or was that the cake that Antonio brought to Edoardo ‘s birthday celebration?

I think there was also a bowl of very fresh looking pomegranates in the center of one of the tables in the lavish Recchi home.

Then there were these dishes:

  • A dish of eggplant and elder flowers
  • Russian Salad or Insalata-russa
  • Ukha, a clear Russian seafood broth
  • Leghorn-style cod
  • Canapes
  • Marinated Egg Yolk, Pea Cream and Zucchini Flowers
  • Prawns with Ratatouille and Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • Mixed Fish with Crunchy Vegetables
  • Rissotto
  • Spelt Soup
  • Chinnotto. an Italian soft drink
  • Raspberries

And of course there’s this scene when all the chemistry starts:

Bonne Buouche

Just what the heck are they torching???

One review/critique of the film said Antonio was showing Emma how to char the Insalata Russa.  (That makes no sense to me whatsoever.) Another said that he was torching the top of a Bonne Bouche.

Either way, this scene gave me pause and was my inspiration.  I did both.  (Sans flaming the insalata.)

Eliot's Eats

Insalata Russa
based on Olivie Salad and Insalata Russa

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
½ c. sweet peas (frozen)
2 t. apple cider vinegar
½ c. mayonnaise
½ c. sour cream
Salt and Pepper
1 t. fresh dill, chopped

For garnish:
Hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut into quarter wedges
Chopped pickles

Cook the potatoes in boiling water 7-10 minutes or until tender but still firm.  Remove from cooking water.   Steam carrots and peas (5-7 minutes).   Let all veggies cool to room temperature.   Combine veggies and toss with the vinegar.  Sit aside.

Combine cooled veggies with mayo and sour cream.  Season with salt and pepper and dill. Lightly toss salad.

Place servings of salad in small single-serving bowls and top with an egg wedge and chopped pickles.  More dill may be sprinkled on top.


Eliot's Eats

I certainly could have put a shrimp on top for a nice summer salad meal.   I will, however, never look at a prawn the same again.

The addition of the dill in this salad makes all the difference; otherwise, I am afraid it would have been a bit humdrum.   I really like how this came together and it is a perfect alternative to a regular potato salad.   I think this salad will make an appearance at our Fourth of July celebration.

Yes, I did do both this Insalata Russa and that mysterious torched Bonne Bouche.   (Who knows what they were torching in this film, I mean, besides each other.)   🙂   But, I have decided to post my Bonne Bouche cheese plate later.

Total aside but did anyone else pick up on the Hitchcock-esque music as Emma stalks Antonio through the streets of Sanremo?



For all my down-to-the-wire FnF posts, click here.  If you are more organized than I, please plan ahead and join us for the July film, Popeye, hosted by The Lawyer’s Cookbook.   If you are really organized, plan on viewing Hotel Transylvania 2 for August (hosted at Coffee and Casseroles).   I must also put in a plug for the September film, Frida.   September also marks a paired event with Cook the Books and the novel, The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck.   Plan accordingly.


Ciao, bella!


23 comments to Insalata Russa for Food ‘n Flix

  • Debra, so glad you were able to enjoy the film, an unusual pick for sure. I love how you describe it throughout the post. And yes I saw the pomegranates too and YES someone else mentioned the sex scene lol. Intense right? I am still puzzled by what was being torched too but I just adore your salad, dill is a perfect addition. Thanks for participating!

  • Taking On Magazines

    I love your reviews and always figure I can count on them because I think our tastes are very similar. The salad is a case in point. It sounds delicious … I’m a sucker for a good potato salad anyway. I was intrigued by the eggplant and elder flowers, though since I have no way to get the flowers from the Alps to here, I’ll just have to dream about how delicious it was. 🙂

    • Thanks, Christiane. I bet someone in the FnF group makes something resembling the eggplant dish. I’m up for a trip to the Alps, though.

  • kitchenriffs

    Haven’t seen the film, so thanks for the recap. Torching a salad? Hmmm — I grill romaine (and stir-fry lettuce), but that’s a new one on me. Anyway, love your salad — nice take. Thanks.

  • Angie@Angie's Recipes

    Sounds like an interesting film…the salad looks very tasty!

  • I’d love to check out this movie! We’re going to Italy in a few months and I can’t wait! It’s my favorite place in the world!

  • This salad looks like something I’d happily make a meal out of, I’m glad you decided to share this one!

  • Mae

    It seems natural that this salad would appear in an Italian film about a Russian (which sounds pretty intriguing as you describe it). After all, it’s so widely associated with exiles from the FSU wherever they ended up.

    Another name under which I’ve had this dish is Salat Olivier — it often has quite a few ingredients along with those in your recipe, so it’s not exactly potato salad. According to Wikipedia it can include: “diced boiled potatoes, carrots, brined dill pickles, green peas, eggs, celeriac, onions, diced boiled chicken (or sometimes ham or bologna sausage), tart apples, with salt, pepper, and mustard added to enhance flavor, dressed with mayonnaise.”

    I always associate it with canned peas, which I don’t like that much, but the Russians I know swear it has to be that way to be like it was in the bad old days.

    best… mae at

    • I pulled this recipe from two and one was a Olivier Salad recipe. I cannot imagine this salad with canned peas. That being said, we did have a pea salad on our family menu as a quick dish that was canned peas, onions, hard boiled eggs, and a bit of mayo. I remember liking that one. Not so much now, I think.

  • I totally missed the eerie music but I do agree that the women made this movie. I think this salad was a perfect choice

  • Great recipe! It looks like an amazing summer salad!

  • I love reading your reviews because you always get so much out of the different movies and books and I love that. So glad you made the Russian salad–I just couldn’t figure out the torching thing either. 😉 I like all of the dill–in the pickles and the fresh dill added in–makes it seem perfect for summer.

    Thanks for sharing it with Souper Sundays too!

  • mjskit

    I just came from Evelyne’s post and got really interesting in the movie, but now after reading yours, I know that I really do need to watch this movie. I mean…look at all that food!!! I do love your potato salad and love that you added peas and the dill is perfect!

    • It’s an acquired taste (the movie). I would see it again, but I don’t know if it’s my favorite of all time.