Throughout her career as a cookbook author, Olia Hercules has taken deep dives into regional cuisines spanning Eastern Europe, including Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia and beyond. Each of her three cookbooks, the latest of which is Summer Kitchens, is chock full of recipes for breads, stews and other dishes unique to each area. But there’s one dish many of these regional cuisines have in common: dumplings.
From manti in Turky to khinkali beloved across the Caucasus, these dumplings take many ornate forms, some rolled into perfect roses and others folded into something resembling a deliciously plump scarab beetle—and all are an economical way to use up leftovers or stretch simple ingredients into a filling meal. However, there’s only one dumpling that Hercules refers to as her “death row wish,” and that’s the simple, moon-shaped varenyky she grew up eating in Kakhovka, Ukraine, and which is featured in her first book, Mamushka.