Borscht stars in Anna Voloshyna’s new cookbook ‘Budmo! Recipes from a Ukrainian kitchen’

Borscht stars in Anna Voloshyna's new cookbook 'Budmo!  Recipes from a Ukrainian kitchen'

Long before Ukraine became a war zone and her family was forced to flee their home, Anna Voloshyna referred to herself as a “borshch patriot.”

The author of “Budmo! Recipes from Ukrainian cuisine” wants the world to know that the beetroot soup comes from Ukraine, not Russia. She cites the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which stands as an international arbiter of culture, has placed borshch on the list of endangered heritage and recognizes its origin in Ukraine.

“We always knew it was Ukrainian because we traced its roots. We made borshch long before it came to Russia,” Voloshyna said.

She wrote her book before the Russian invasion and says that if she wrote the cookbook now, she would use the spelling closest to Ukrainian pronunciation (borshch), as opposed to the more common Russian spelling (borsht).

“For us, as Ukrainians, it is very, very important to establish borshch as a Ukrainian,” she said. “We write songs about borshch; we write books about borshch; borscht is always on the table. We really like borshch in Ukraine.”

Anna Voloshyna is a San Francisco chef and food blogger, born and raised in Ukraine. Her new book celebrates Ukrainian and other Eastern European dishes.

Provided by Anna Voloshyna

In addition to being an accomplished photographer — the vibrant photos in the Rizzoli book are hers — Voloshyna is an educator of all things Eastern European, spreading the word through pop-up dinners, podcasts, cooking classes, and lectures. Until the current conflict, she says, many people were ignorant of Ukraine’s geography, unaware that it is Europe’s second largest country, or the chronology of previous invasions.

On November 16, Anna Voloshyna will host two Ukrainian borshch and pampushki community dinners ($18) and offer a takeout menu at 18 Reasons. 3674 18th Street, San Francisco.

Unlike the Bay Area, Ukraine’s four seasons are distinct and extreme. To survive the brutal winters, home cooks rely on preservation and fermentation. On a frigid day, hot borscht is a comfort; on a summer’s day, the chilled vegetable-rich version refreshes with its layers of crispy radishes, cucumbers and green onions.

Borshch is one of the most famous integral dishes in Ukrainian cuisine, according to Voloshyna, and “Budmo!” contains three recipes representing different styles. Some include unexpected additions, such as a red vegetarian borscht creatively flavored with prunes for sweetness and chanterelle mushrooms for earthiness. Backyard gardens are common in Ukraine, and both her grandmother and mother-in-law grow sorrel, which dominates the deep green borscht.

As a garnish, she writes, “Sour cream and dill on everything is our family motto.” She refers to sour cream as a “must-have ingredient,” although it’s also acceptable to top cold borscht with a dollop of lighter yogurt.

In San Francisco, she serves clear, healthy soups with garlicky, oven-warm buns called pampushky or toasted slices of dense Lithuanian rye. A hearty bowl can be a whole meal. In many Ukrainian households, she explains, borshch is eaten weekly as an appetizer, followed by a meaty stew, cabbage rolls, or varenyky (dumplings).

She and her husband, who came to California in 2011, moved from Menlo Park to San Francisco’s Design District a week before the pandemic started. She especially enjoys the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and incorporating local produce into Ukrainian dishes. She said the experience of writing a cookbook – filling the pages with beautiful plates on delicate fabrics and traditional scarves called khustyna – was so positive that she has been writing proposals for a while.

"budmo!  Recipes from a Ukrainian kitchen" by Anna Voloshyna.

“Budmo! Recipes from a Ukrainian Kitchen” by Anna Voloshyna.

Provided by Rizzoli

She includes some Russian recipes, such as savory pelmeni, in the book, but wouldn’t necessarily do it again. “Honestly, at the moment everything that has to do with Russia is very painful for me,” she said. “Maybe I’d delete some of those recipes. It’s very painful to talk about that culture when they try to erase ours.”

When the Russian army occupied her hometown of Snihurivka in southern Ukraine, her extended family fled to Odessa. If Voloshyna went there today, the arduous journey would involve flying to Poland and taking two buses. Technically, she and her husband could go, but he shouldn’t be allowed to leave because men aged 60 and under are required to serve in the military.

Her mother came to San Francisco before the war started for five fun months of cooking and entertaining. Usual Ukrainian hospitality means that when friends come to your home, the table is set, food is offered, and the shared toast is “budmo!” – “Let us!”

Lisa Amand is a freelance writer based in the Bay Area. Email: [email protected]

cold borsch

Serves 6

In her book “Budmo! Recipes from Ukrainian cuisine,” explains Anna Voloshyna that Ukrainians call this cold beetroot soup “kholodnyk” (kholod means “cold” in both Ukrainian and Russian). She relies on fresh, crunchy vegetables and flavorful herbs to add more texture and color to the dish.

2 medium beetroots, about 12 ounces total weight
5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
3 cups regular kefir or buttermilk
2 medium Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
3 medium radishes, thinly sliced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill and flat-leaf parsley, in equal parts, plus more to serve
Distilled water, chilled, for dilution as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, green part only, thinly sliced
½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve with

Instructions: In a medium saucepan, combine the beets with water to cover about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until beets are easily pierced with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain the beets and let them stand for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and coarsely grate. Put them back in the jar.

Roughly grate two of the eggs and add them to the beets. Add the kefir, about half of the cucumbers and radishes (save the rest to finish the soup), and the dill and parsley. Stir everything together with a spoon and add a little of the chilled water if the mixture is too thick. It should have the consistency of a yogurt soup. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours before serving.

When ready to serve, halve the remaining three eggs lengthwise. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with some of the remaining cucumbers and radishes, the green onions, the egg halves, a dollop of yogurt, some dill and parsley, and a good drizzle of oil. The soup should be eaten very cold, straight from the fridge. It tastes best the day it is made.