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KASHA VARNISHKES

Buckwheat Groats With Bow-Tie Noodles

Jewish Food: The World at Table by Matthew Goodman

Kasha derives from a Russian word meaning cereal, and it originally referred to any grain cooked with water, milk, or broth. Over time, however, it came to mean only buckwheat. In fact, kasha is not a grain at all, but rather a part of buckwheat's fruiting seed. To make kasha, the seed's husk is dried and split, so that the inner kernel, called the groat, can be extracted. The groats are then roasted until they become dark; this step turns buckwheat groats into kasha. Kasha was indispensible to the Jewish peasants of Eastern Europe, because the buckwheat plant grows in poor soil and difficult weather while providing an excellent source of fiber and cheap protein. Kasha has served as the filling for a wide variety of Jewish foods, but is most widely known for its role in kasha varnishkes. When I make this dish, I like to add mushrooms, which, like kasha, have a rich earthiness. I also add chopped nuts for a bit of crunch. Served with a salad, this is a perfectly hearty winter dinner.

SERVES 6 TO 8

• 8 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) bow-tie noodles
• Vegetable oil for drizzling, plus 2 tablespoons
• 2 onions, sliced
• 2 cups sliced wild mushrooms, such as cremini or shiitake
• 1 cup kasha (whole granulation)
• 1 egg white, lightly beaten
• 2 1/4 cups water or chicken stock
• Salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1/3 cup walnuts (optional)


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until firm but tender. Drain and remove to a bowl. Drizzle generously with oil and toss to combine.

2. Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly colored. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the onions are light brown and the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes more. Remove to a plate.

3. Place the kasha in a small mixing bowl. Add the beaten egg white and mix well, so that all the grains are coated with egg. Place the kasha in the skillet, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often, until the grains have dried and become lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

4. Add the mushrooms, onions, and water or stock. Cover and simmer over low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the kasha is tender, about 10 minutes. (If the kasha is not tender at the end of the cooking time, add a bit more liquid, cover, and continue cooking until done.)

5. If desired, place the walnuts in a small dry skillet and cook over low heat, stirring continually, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Let cool, then finely chop.

6. When the kasha is cooled, add the noodles and (if using) the chopped walnuts and combine well. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Transfer to a large serving platter. Serve hot.
 

 

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