cover image Mamushka: A Cookbook; Recipes from the Ukraine and Eastern Europe

Mamushka: A Cookbook; Recipes from the Ukraine and Eastern Europe

Olia Hercules. Weldon Owen, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61628-961-4

Born and raised in southern Ukraine, Hercules was surprised to learn that many Westerners viewed the region as cold, gray, and bleak. In this cookbook, she sets the record straight, offering dozens of recipes that illustrate the culinary depth and breadth of Ukraine and Eastern Europe. She showcases classics and explains how cuisines from neighboring (and distant) countries have influenced the region. Though readers may find some of their expectations realized—the first recipe is for borscht, the famous Ukrainian beet broth, and there are plenty of beets and pickles—Hercules makes a strong case for re-examining one’s preconceptions, with dishes such as kyufta, an Armenian soup with lamb and prune meatballs, and nutty meringue noodles, a dish that keeps the crunch of baked meringue with baked noodles and chopped nuts. Approachable riffs on the familiar—including zapinkanka, a dessert falling somewhere between a pound cake and a cheesecake, and Ukrainian gnocchi, a dish that calls for saucing cheesy gnocchi with sour cream and maple syrup—act as entry points for culinary adventurers. Artfully photographed and buoyed by Hercules’s enthusiasm for the region and culture, this is a thoughtful and welcome diversion for foodies of all tastes. (Nov.)