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A note from Baba's ghost writer, Raisa Stone:
Though Baba's Kitchen contains traditional meat recipes, vegetarians
will find much
with which to be delighted. Over
more than 12,000 years, food insecurity caused by cyclical
gathering/hunting/crops, war and poverty have inspired Ukrainian
Because every Ukrainian eats a 100% meatless meal at Winter Solstice/Christmas,
cooks compete fiercely to create the most lavish vegetarian buffet. We feed this meal to all our animals and thank them for their service. On Christmas Eve, every Ukrainian hears animals speak.
We got really busy with vegetarian recipes in the era when mammoths perished, and we invited horses to become our sacred companions.
Unlike some modern recipes that attempt to mimic meat dishes, Ukrainian food is what it is. You'll notice, for example, that holubtsi (cabbage rolls) can be made in an almost endless variety, most of them meatless. Since my family experienced great deprivation in Europe, meatless holubtsi are traditional to me. I didn't even taste them with meat until I was in my 30's!
Vegetarian borshch? Naturally! This signature dish must appear on the Holy Eve table. The earthy taste of quality mushrooms, garlic, peppercorns and sunflower oil makes a memorable impression.
Baba's recipes are homey, nourishing and economical. Ukrainians have, for millennia, prepared an astounding variety of mouth watering foods from basics: potatoes, beets, cabbage, greens, mushrooms, onions, beans, and whole grains. And of course, lots of garlic. As Baba says, “If everyone eating same thing, who care you smell?"
She also says, "Why is Ukrainian so big on dish from cabbage? We say, If there are potato and cabbage, then house is not empty. Baba herself never seen house with only these thing. Usually is at least chair and television. But you never know. Baba wouldn't doubt is some isolate American somewhere, carving couch from freakazoid big potato."
Delicious casseroles are plentiful and largely meatless. Protein and iron-rich Fasolia (white bean pate) yields four large servings for about a dollar. I'm always returned an empty serving dish when I bring this addictive recipe to potlucks.
Mushroom, spinach and kasha (buckwheat) patties will become indispensable additions to your arsenal of veggie burger recipes.
A delicious, all purpose grain with a mild flavor, kasha is comparable in protein grams to beef----and is even being touted as a complete protein by the bodybuilders' bible : Muscle & Fitness Magazine! Like rice, buckwheat takes on the flavor with which one seasons, making it suitable for mixing with everything from cheese to tomatoes to cabbage. Kasha holubtsi are a nutritionally complete meal.
Baba has devoted an entire chapter to another Ukrainian staple, potatoes, and yet another to salads---with endless variations of Kartoplya
(potato salad). Ever tried roasted vegetable
potato salad, enlivened with red onion and cracked black pepper?
will spin you through the Ukrainian wheel of the year not only with
one who grew up with the original Slow Food Movement,
Baba encourages a return to natural cycles and use of the home
garden. She suggests a variety of fruits and vegetables that are
readily available through farmers markets and online catalogues. Even
a balcony tomato plant, if of a solid and prolific species, can
contribute mightily to kitchen magic. In a
nod to economic renewal, Baba's
most-touted tomato is the depression-era Radiator
Charlie's Mortgage Lifter.
Please avail yourself of the Table of Contents.
Smachnoho! Eat and enjoy!