Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ingredient of the Week: Kasha

We don't eat a lot of grains in our house. I'm not a pasta person by any stretch of the imagination, and before Japan, I just didn't get excited about rice. So, when it came to that starchy side, I was all about potatoes.

But in the last five or so years, we've really tried to incorporate more interesting grains into our diet. I've long since loved couscous and brown basmati rice, but having other grains like quinoa and bulgur on the dinner table has only started in the past couple of years.

I'm proud to say that in the little nook of our apartment my husband has christened Lentil Corner, we currently have basmati, brown and sushi rice along with Israeli couscous and black quinoa.

So, we're progressing along nicely with our alternative grains.

This week, we decided to buy some kasha. If you don't know, kasha is roasted buckwheat. It looks like little pyramid shaped grains. If you've ever had soba noodles, that distinctive grassy taste you're getting is from the buckwheat flour in it.

 I picked it up from a new bulk health store that just opened up around the corner from us. When I opened the bin, I was hit by that heady roasted, grassy aroma that reminded me instantly of the buckwheat tea I used to buy in Japan.

Soba Tea: source
But, instead of heading to Japan for today's flavour profile, we decided to head to Eastern Europe and a great recipe from Mark Bittman.

Kasha with Golden Brown Onions

(Mark Bittman: recipe source here)


3 cups chopped onion
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 egg or 2 tablespoons natural oil, like grapeseed or corn (I went the egg route)
1 cup kasha
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or water, warmed
1 to 2 tablespoons butter (optional) 


1. Sauté the onion in a large skillet. Make sure the skillet has a lid, because you're going to cover the onion almost immediately and cook for about 15 minutes, until the onion is dry and almost sticking to the pan.  Almost, but not quite. Don't worry, the steam created by the cooking onion should prevent it. Add the 3 tablespoons oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until the onion is nicely browned, another 15 minutes or so.

2. If you've decided to go the egg route, beat it, then toss it in a bowl with the kasha.  (If not, skip on down to step 3).  Heavily season mixture with salt and pepper and place in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the mixture smells toasty, about 3 minutes. Proceed to step 4.

3. If you're using the 2 tablespoons oil instead of egg, put it in a heavy, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the kasha, along with some salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the mixture smells toasty, about 3 minutes.

4-Turn the heat way down,, carefully add the stock, and stir once.  Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Stir in the onion, taste, and adjust the seasoning.  Serve or let the kasha sit for up to 30 minutes before serving. (This step makes it a great choice for a make-ahead meal)

When you're ready to serve, fluff with a fork, adding the butter if you like at the same time. Works great with braised red cabbage. While I made Bittman's recipe for braised red cabbage from the same cookbook, I wasn't as enamoured with it as I have other recipes - more specifically this recipe. So, I recommend you try that one out.

The kasha needs something sweet and tangy to play off its earthiness!


Locavore Family said...

So excited about this! When I was on Bloor St. W., I had a box of Kasha in my hand and was so tempted to bring it up. I haven't had buckwheat since Ukraine, but I'm now committed to trying this once I'm done. Thanks for sharing!

I've requested Bittman's cookbook from the library, since you've done such a great job making his recipes look so tempting and delicious. Thanks!

Alyson said...

They're really quite good. If it has his no-knead bread recipe in it, I highly recommend that!

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