Category Archives: vegetables

Baba’s Borscht

When I was little,  I had a t-shirt which pictured a soup can that read, “Baba’s Borscht”.   The print had the nostalgia of an old Campbell’s soup can and the familiarity of my own heritage: I’m half Ukrainian.

My Baba (pictured above on the left) loved me, and I loved my Baba.  I also loved her perogies and borscht :-p

She died of breast cancer when I was six, and I do miss her.  Especially being here, the country in which she grew up.

I still have that t-shirt.

Baba’s Borscht

1 large beet
1 large Idaho potato
1 large carrot
1/2 Vidalia onion
1/2 small cabbage
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 lemon
1 tbsp. season salt
1 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

Skin and dice the beet, potato and carrot.
Slice the onion into thin slices.
Chop the cabbage.
Put the vegetables and whole garlic clove into a pot and cover with 1/2 gallon of water.
Cook on low until vegetables are tender, approximately 30-45 minutes.
Remove from heat and add dill, salt, vinegar, tomato paste and the juice of one lemon.
Add more salt, vinegar or lemon juice to taste (the amount of these ingredients I add have been different every time I make it).
One thing that’s a constant, this soup – like many others – is even better the next day.


Vegetable Fried Buckwheat

Buckwheat, or Kasha, is an extremely popular grain here in Ukraine.  It is super cheap and has a really distinct texture & flavor.  Other than enjoying the occasional buckwheat crepe, this ingredient was never really a part of my diet in the US, so I’m looking forward to discovering new ways of using it.

In this recipe, I’m substituting buckwheat for rice in the traditional fried rice recipe.  Because buckwheat is naturally more flavorful than rice and soy sauce & ginger aren’t exactly readily available here, I’m using less seasoning than I typically would with fried rice.

Vegetable Fried Buckwheat

2 cups buckwheat
12-14 oz. frozen veggies
1/2 onion, chopped
5-10 button mushrooms, sliced
2 eggs
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. season salt

Pour the buckwheat, salt and 2 cups of water into a pot with a lid.
Cook, covered, on low-medium heat for 10 minutes.
Add frozen veggies and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, sautee the chopped onion and garlic for five minutes.
Add sliced mushrooms, and cook another three minutes.
In another pan, scramble eggs and cook on low-medium heat until done.
Mix all ingredients together.

Butternut Squash Grilled Cheese

The first–and only–time I had savory “french toast” was in Ukraine a couple years ago.

I was staying with the sweetest couple for a few days, and the wife made savory french toast to go along with her soup.  I never thought to do this, but it’s a nice way to moisten, crisp and flavor bread without the use of pure fat, exchanging it for a bit of protein.

So instead of using butter on the bread for my grilled cheese, I dunked the slices into an egg batter.

I also added avocado as a throwback to my time in Haiti.  Bread, avocado and eggs was a favorite breakfast of mine there; heavy on the avocado, which was right off the tree.  Delicious!

Although they don’t grow in Ukraine, I found surprisingly good avocados in the grocery store around the corner.

Since I’m on the subject, I’m not ashamed to plug GSI Haiti, a small non-profit organization that promotes education & community development in rural Fond des Blancs.  It is run by very committed local staff & teachers who are in need of continued support.  Please visit them online at

2 slices of bread
1 egg
1  tbsp. buttermilk
1/2 cup butternut squash (cooked & mashed)
1/2 tsp. marinara sauce
1 slice swiss cheese
2 tbsp. feta cheese
avocado wedge
onion wedge
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

Slice the onion and sauté on low heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes.
Beat the egg and buttermilk well.
Dip the bread slices in the egg batter and cook on medium heat
Heat the mashed squash and add marinara sauce (I’ve been using spicy marinara instead of other spices, since it is less expensive and already includes oregano, pepper, chili powder, etc.).
Once the squash is sufficiently heated, remove from heat and add salt & a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Once one side of each bread slice is cooked, flip them and add swiss cheese, feta, avocado slices, onions and mashed squash on the cooked side of one of the slices.
Place the cooked side of the other slice on top of the sandwich.
Once the bottom slice is fully cooked, flip the sandwich until the other side is cooked.

Chicksquash Patties with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Did I mention that I don’t have an oven?

No cookies, no frozen pizza, and no lasagna for me!  This recipe is one of my attempts to be creative with just a stovetop.

Chicksquash Patties with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

2 cups chickpeas (prepared as directed; I used dried, so I soaked & boiled them beforehand)
1.5 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 egg
1/2 onion, diced
1 red pepper
1 cup spicy tomato sauce
1/4 cup creamy goat cheese
2 garlic cloves
seasoned salt, to taste
fresh parsley as a garnish (I had a guest this particular evening, so I wanted to be fancy)

Mash the cooked chickpeas with a potato masher, or whatever works best for you.
Steam the butternut squash in a frying pan (or roast in the oven if you’ve got one).
Mash the squash with the chickpeas and add salt to taste.
Add a beaten egg and mix thoroughly.
At this point, I would normally add seasoned bread crumbs or flour to help shape the patties, but I didn’t want to spend the money.
Form the mixture into patties, approximately 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 in tall.
Cook the patties in a pan on low-medium flame until cooked through; about 3 minutes on each side.
In the meantime, lay the whole red pepper on an open flame until the side is burnt.  Rotate regularly until the entire pepper is black.
Remove the pepper from the flame and let it sit.
To make the sauce, sautee the chopped onion and garlic in a pot.
De-seed & skin the pepper, chop, and add to the onion and garlic.
Add the tomato sauce and mix thoroughly.
Add the goat cheese, mix, and remove from heat.
Serve the patties with sauce and garnish with parsley.