Sunday, January 10, 2010

Babushka! Babushka!, A Veselka Dinner.

New York City is home to a Ukrainian restaurant called Veselka. The New York Times had an article about Veselka the other day. This restaurant also happens to be a favorite of my friend, M, who lived in New York City for a while. He was recently given the Veselka cookbook. Somehow several of us came up with the idea to have a big dinner party using recipes from this book. Last night, my friends and I celebrated Ukrainian Christmas Eve. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have friends that can cook? Assignments and recipes went out by email last week. I was assigned borscht. It's a special meatless beet broth in which mushroom dumplings are added. R & E were assigned the dumplings. It was agreed that Team Borscht did a smashing job!

The cookbook has information on the history of Ukrainian Christmas Eve and also included the order of the courses. We began with this little dish of wheatberries, honey, poppy seeds and toasted walnuts. It was pretty good. Wheatberries have an odd texture, chewy, springy and crunchy all rolled into one. Up next was Team Borscht. For those who don't know, I'm half Polish. Therefore I prefer a Polish borscht, hearty, chunky, a wee bit tart with lots of dill and sour cream. This was essentially a beet consomme seasoned with vinegar, sugar and allspice. It's a little sweet and sour. After a few bites, I got more used to the taste. It was especially good with the dumplings.

Course One:

The wheatberry poppy seed dish, kutya, traditionally served as the first and last courses. Since we had SO MUCH food, it was the first course only.

Borscht with vushka, mushroom filled dumplings. Very pretty!

I have to admit that by this point, I was getting full. We still had a ton of food. Oof. We moved on to the cabbage leaves stuffed with kasha and topped with tomato sauce, potato and onion pierogi, sauerkraut and peas, and mushrooms. We also had a couple loaves of challah.

My plate, clockwise from top right: sauerkraut with peas, kasha holubtsi, simmered mushrooms, pierogi with sour cream (I had to cheat on the no-dairy thing, sorry.) and a bit of challah.

The challah

Our final course was the uzvar, a dried fruit compote. My tummy was officially at critical mass by this point, so I had a few bites. I also brought some home to put on oatmeal. It was awesome. It tasted like Christmas.

Dinner was amazing. I think i actually have a food hangover this morning and may possibly still be too stuffed to drink my coffee. With any luck, my friends and I will make this a regular thing, with a different country each time (hint hint).


Kristina P. said...

It all looks amazing! I have never had borscht. It sort of scares me.

Linda said...

Yum! It all looks so good!

peewee said...

YUMMMMMM....veselka has THE BEST perogi's EVER! Were they as good in the book??

Meg said...

I've never actually been to Veselka. I prefer Little Poland on 2nd and 12th (-ish, it's around there), being Polish and all. I have to say, the pierogi were my favorite part. M & A did a great job!

Sue said...

Hey Meg! Found your blog through mine. This looks AMAZING! What a creative bunch you are. Yum!

Ellen Bloom said...

I come from a Ukranian background. 3 of my grandparents were born in the Ukraine. Grandma used to make the BEST borscht! Another favorite was kasha mit varnishkes, which was kasha with bowtie pasta all mixed together. Try as I might, I just can't get the krispyness of the kasha like Grandma could! Sigh. She also used to make fruit compote. Basically, she took about 4 different kinds of apples, a few pears, some prunes and raisins, peeled, cored and cut up. Then she just boiled them down forever. It was like hot applesauce, but the prunes and raisins gave it a tangy taste! Yum!