"Summer Kitchens" by Olia Hercules

By Olia Hercules

Reviewed by Collee

ISBN 9781681885704

At a time when the war in Ukraine lies heavily on our minds, this cookbook is an elegant and heartfelt glance into this gorgeous place, its people and its varied cuisine. Ukraine is bordered by Russia, Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova and the influence of these diverse borders is apparent in the array of traditions and styles of cooking. The title is a reference to the outbuildings that many rural families had on their land that served as a kitchen, preparing and preserving foods for the cold winter months ahead. These structures number far fewer now, but Hercules points out that they encourage a very intimate, almost spiritual connection to everything living around you.
Fermentation kicks this compendium off and yes, there's borsch, but so much more. There are more traditional dishes to be found here, like variations on varenyky (stuffed dumplings) and cabbage rolls and also a dive into rather adventurous forms of meat. This cookbook rounds itself out with lovely fresh dishes, too. A simple cucumber yogurt salad and a mulberry tomato salad are among these.
My personal favorites were the Pot-roast chicken in herby creme fraiche and Curd cake with carmelized apples, which I found to be akin to a rich ricotta cheesecake. As one might expect from the uber- elevated state of food porn today, the photos are exquisitely beautiful and one feels transported to a rustic summer kitchen somewhere in a peaceful Ukraine. We can certainly maintain hope that Ukrainians will be able return to such a place themselves in the future.

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