The Authentic Ukrainian Kitchen: Recipes from a Native Chef

Activism can start in the kitchen--or at least that's what it feels like when reading The Authentic Ukrainian Kitchen: Recipes from a Native Chef, a cookbook by one of Ukraine's most popular chefs. Yevhen Klopotenko, who counts restaurateur and school-lunch reformer among his many pursuits, repudiates a bland, Soviet-imposed food culture and heralds Ukraine's ethnic dishes as worthy of kitchens around the world. "After all," he writes, "if you want to learn about a culture, what better way than to try its dishes?" The chef doesn't shy away from mentioning the Russia-Ukraine war. In fact, the book's very first recipe includes modifications needed in 2022 when Ukrainian grocery stores ran out of yeast.

The robust cookbook proudly dives into the history of staples such as rye flour and cheeses. However, Klopotenko informs readers in his casual, friendly style when the historical record is sparse, such as how buckwheat first arrived in Ukraine. The book sorts its recipes into eight sections; each recipe generally fills an entire page, with accompanying photographs claiming full pages of their own. Fans of Olia Hercules's Mamushka will recognize a similar aesthetic in this book's food styling and plating. But while Hercules leans toward memoir in her recipe introductions, Klopotenko relies on research and his travels to provide context.

While the recipes are mostly current and rediscovered Ukrainian classics, Klopotenko adds his own twists here and there, such as adding fennel seeds to black currant liqueur, or adding honey and smoked paprika to uzvar, another quintessential drink. --Nina Semczuk, writer, editor, and illustrator

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