Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Cooking- A Review of "The Veselka Cookbook" [7]

The Veselka Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Landmark Restaurant in New York's East Villageby Tom Birchard, Natalie Danford
Thomas Dunne Books, ISBN 978-0312385682
October 27, 2009, 272 pages

If you are a very observant, and very regular, reader here, you may have noticed that I have a fondness for all things Ukrainian.
Ok, maybe not all things, but a few.
Now, there is not one drop of  Ukrainian blood in my veins. 100% Irish there. So where did this interest come from?
Well, as I remember it...and the older I get the more I doubt the veracity of my memory...there was a girl in high school who was actually of Ukrainian hertiage. Maybe her parents, maybe her grandparents were from the Ukraine, and she had a great interest in the culture. They were Ukrainian Catholics, with icons and a sung Liturgy, that all looked very exotic next to our Roman rite. Then one day she bought in a pysanky, a Ukrainian Easter egg and she really had my attention.
I used to go to the lower East Side of NYC, to a Ukrainian store called Surma to buy pysanky supplies, dyes and kistkas and such, and I was totally sold. Now I have not been there in a few years, and the ethnic neighborhoods of NYC ebb and flow and constantly change, but at least when I was in high school that area was very Ukrainian. Stores, butcher shops, bakeries..and restaurants. I could buy my supplies, get some fabulous kielbasa to take home and eat some pierogi...a perfect day.

One restaurant at the heart of that area, a New York unique combination of diner and ethnic restaurant, is a place called Veselka. I have never been there, something I hope to correct in the future, but a gift that I received for Christmas, The Veselka Cookbook, warmed my heart in the meantime. If you have an interest in the food of Eastern Europe...or just great food...this is certainly a cookbook you should check out.
The book is divided into a number of enticing chapters...Soups, Stuffed Delights: Pierogi, Blintzes and More, Meat and Poultry, Salads and Sides, Desserts, Christmas Eve: A Special Ukrainian Tradition, Sandwiches and Breakfast Any Time.
Now, I am sure the more 'diner'ish recipes, burgers and muffins and blueberry pancakes are just fine, but it is the more tradition recipes that get my attention.

My mother used to make stuffed cabbage and since I never got her recipe, I am always interested in finding a good one..and maybe the one in this cookbook is the winner. Goulash and stroganoff, blintzes and pierogi, so many delicious sounding recipes. I will tell you that the photo of a bowl of borscht, the photo that is also on the cover, was enough to make me whimper. I love borscht, a hot beet soup, and as soon as I get a few pounds of whole beets and a pork butt, I am making a pot! A number of black and white photos showing the history of the restaurant, some lovely color photos of some of their most popular dishes, make this a very attractive book, but it is all about the recipes..and I will leave you with one, a pork stew called Bigos. Ok, as the book explains, bigos is actually a Polish dish but I love pork...I love kielbasa...I love sauerkraut.

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless pork roast, cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 links kielbasa smoked sausage, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups sauerkraut with juices fresh ground black pepper
In a medium pot, combine the stock with 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and keep warm until you are ready to sue it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot and add the pork. Working in batches if necessary, cooking, turning with tongs, until the pieces are browned on al side, about 5 minutes.
Pour the hot stock mixture over the meat. Add the diced onion, allspice, paprika and bay leaves. Simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Place the kielbasa links in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast in the preheated oven, turning once, until they are brown and a little crispy, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.
While the pork is cooking, prepare the sauerkraut. Place the sauerkraut in a medium pot with its juices. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the sauerkraut, but do not rinse it. Set aside.
When the pork is fully cooked and very tender, stir in the cooked kielbasa and the blanched sauerkraut. Simmer for 10 minutes to combined the flavors. Season to taste with pepper and serve hot.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Call us when dinner's ready, ok? It sounds great and I love the story about the girl from hs.

  2. Ha! My husband's father's family is Ukrainian my mother's father's family is from western Russia --*we* grew up eating beet borscht in the summer as a cold soup and beef borscht in the winter. Mr. BFR's family has this crazy notion that beet borscht is to be eaten hot and cooked with pork.

    We also grew up with different versions of stuffed cabbage. LOL.

    Either way, this cookbook looks like a must-have for me.

  3. i have had hot borscht with beef...but in this book it calls for pork, which sounds swell. they also have a recipe for cold borscht and a white borscht.

  4. This recipe looks good. I love sauerkraut. I have Russian and German grandparents and we ate a lot of borscht, beets and cabbage.

  5. I've never had Ukrainian food before but I love the cover of this book. I'll see if my library has it.

  6. I haven't ever tried Ukrainain either, but I want to now. I doubt we will have this book in England, but there must be an equivalent.

  7. Sounds so yummy! Really... I can bring the wine... what time is dinner?

  8. Great story! I love to hear about how people develop their passions. The book sounds wonderful.

  9. Interesting where you got your love of all things Ukrainian. I've never eaten borscht but I do love beets however, sauerkraut is not one of my favs. The stew sounds good other than the sauerkraut. Happy eating!

  10. That's really funny. I'm Ukrainian and Polish, but harbour a love of Ireland! Maybe we were switched at birth? ;)

    As for the Ukrainian food, whether it's borscht, periogies, holobchi (stuffed cabbage), sauerkraut,'s all good.

    Thanks for sharing the book review and recipe.

  11. The Bigos or stew sounds very good. I usually just do my pork roast with the sauerkraut, but the kielbasa sausage sounds delicious also.

    This week-end I wanted something sweet and crunchy, so I have been roasting pecans and walnuts.

  12. gigi ann, I often do pork with sauerkraut,but I like the additions to0.

    Marie, I have the same oversized nose as my family members, so I don't think I was
    Hey, I like many things Irish.but there is something about Ukrainian designs and patterns and colors that I love.

    kaye, there is nothing like so hot rich borscht on a chilly day. of course in Florida that is not quite the issue.

  13. I don't know, I now live in Florida after living in Maine. The recipe sounds too yummy to miss out on. Thanks for jogging my memory to cook a borscht. I haven;t had that in ages, and its so healthy for you.

    Love your site by the way.

  14. With a Ukrainian heritage on my father's side, I've eaten my fair share of borscht. Yummy. I always used to wonder why when my grandmother made hers all the veggies were a wonderful rich burgandy colour, yet when my mother made it the veggies maintained their own colour. when I make they are all a lovely burgandy.

    I have added this to my wish list. Thanks.


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