Apple vodka and green borscht: Anna Voloshyna updates Ukrainian cuisine

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Modernizing a traditional recipe, Anna Voloshyna makes a stubbed cabbage using brined leaves from a jar. Photo by Anna Voloshyna.

Bay Area-based Anna Voloshyna is half a world away from her home country of Ukraine but says that because of current events, people are becoming more aware of the region and more interested in the cuisine that distinguishes itself from Russian cuisine. In her book “Budmo!: Recipes from a Ukrainian Kitchen,” she uses modern conveniences to prepare traditional dishes and reimagines recipes while embracing the bounty of seasonal produce from her new home.

“Everyone is following the news and admiring this period and the whole fight that Ukrainians are putting toward Russia,” says Anna Volshyna of current events in her home country. Photo by Anastasia Blackman.

Cabbage Rolls with Barley and Mushrooms 

Serves 4 to 6

Hearty cabbage rolls, known as golubzi, are a well-known Slavic staple. But this recipe is different from the classic version. First of all, it’s vegetarian. Second, I use pickled cabbage leaves instead of fresh ones. They add a pleasant sourness and complexity I really enjoy. And last but not least, I have swapped the usual tomato sauce for a rich, creamy one, which brings the dish to a whole new level of comfort food. Despite the sauce already being extra creamy, I always serve this dish with a dollop of sour cream. 


  • 12 medium-size jarred pickled cabbage leaves (see Note) 
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 11/3 cups vegetable broth or water 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced 
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, trumpet, or chanterelle works great), sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil 
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered through the stem end, then thinly sliced crosswise 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup vegetable broth or water 1 bay leaf 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving 
  • Sour cream, for serving 


  1. To make the rolls, remove the pickled cabbage leaves from the jar . Unroll them and place them in a medium-large bowl . Cover the leaves with cold water and let soak for 30 to 60 minutes . This step will make them less salty and less sour . 
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the barley, broth, and a pinch of salt and bring to a simmer over high heat . Cover, lower the heat to medium- low, and cook the barley until tender but still slightly chewy, 20 to
    25 minutes . Drain the barley and set aside until needed. 
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat . Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes . Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes . Add the barley, mix well with a spoon, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature. 
  4. To make the sauce, in a large, deep ovenproof frying pan or sauté
    pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes . Add the sugar and mix well, then pour in the water, cover, lower the heat to medium-
    low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes . Pour in the cream and broth, add the bay leaf, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the sauce to a simmer . Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove the pan from the heat . 
  5. Preheat the oven to 425°F . 
  6. Remove the cabbage leaves from the water and pat them dry with paper towels . If a cabbage leaf has a hard, thick rib near the base, cut it away with a paring knife, being careful not to cut too far into the leaf . Lay the cabbage leaves flat in a single layer on a work surface . To fill and shape each roll, spoon about 3 tablespoons of the filling onto a leaf, placing it toward the base . Fold in the sides and then roll up the leaf from the base, enclosing the filling . 
  7. Arrange the cabbage rolls, seam side down, in the pan with the sauce . Spoon some of the sauce over the tops of the rolls . Transfer the pan to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened and the cabbage rolls are soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes . 
  8. Arrange the rolls on a serving platter and spoon the sauce over the top, discarding the bay leaf . Garnish with the parsley and serve right away, with a bowl of sour cream on the side . 

Eschewing red beets and using jarred ingredients to simplify recipes, Anna Voloshyna balances modern conveniences with traditional dishes in her cookbook, “Budmo!” Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.