Monday, September 8, 2014

Not My Mama's Kasha Varnishkes


These really aren't my Mama's kasha varnishkes, because I don't even remember my Mama making kasha varnishkes. I'm not even sure I knew what kasha varnishkes were when I was growing up. But I know what they are now. Should I share? I think I will, because I'm guessing not many know. Kasha varnishkes are buckwheat groats toasted until crunchy, mixed with pretty bow tie noodles and golden caramelized onions or heavenly rich mushrooms. Or both. They are often served for a typical Shabbat dinner with a roast chicken or brisket. My mom always made a kugel which means we never ate this growing up. At least that I can remember.

My friend makes this a lot. So I finally decided to give it a try. My in laws liked it and they aren't even Jewish. I mean they do eat anything I cook, but really these are good. I promise. I mean how can anything with dainty bow tie noodles be bad? I always wondered how little Jewish women in tiny European shtetls got their hands on bow tie noodles. And I wonder are bow tie noodles an American thing? Answers, please? Wikipedia really didn't have much. My guess is that they used traditional egg noodles and mixed those in, but I wasn't there. And I don't know. And I grew up in a small town where I was never invited to eat kasha varnishkes with anyone.


So say kasha varnishkes out loud. Go ahead. Do it. It makes such a pretty sh sound, doesn't it? I love these two words. I love to see them written also. I'm a bit odd, I know. So now that we've covered that, just what makes these kasha varniskes different than what my mother never made? Two words. Truffle oil. Not schmaltz. Truffle oil. This is some thing that many of you have I bet and never figured out how to use. Besides popcorn and eggs and French fries, you can safely use it on anything with mushrooms and pasta. I promise.

Kasha is another word for buckwheat groats that have been roasted. It is also a word for cereal as kasha is a seed and not a grain. One hundred years ago Russia was the leading producer of buckwheat. It is easily grown without fertilizer and was considered a staple of a peasant's diet. It came to the US with immigrants and was often used as a filling in cabbage rolls, blintzes, knishes and kreplach. It is gluten free and low on the glycemic index. 

Whatever. You now know that it is fun to say and it is good for you. Plus you can use your truffle oil in this dish, so you know it has to be good. Whether you came from the Old Country or not, this is a dish that deserves a higher ranking. 


Not My Mama's Kasha Varnishkes
Serves: 4-6
Time:  About 45 minutes including baking

Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
4 c  sliced mushrooms, all kinds if available
1 c chopped onions
1 T minced garlic
1 T Truffle oil
Salt/Pepper

1 c kasha or roasted buckwheat groats
1 egg
2 c chicken broth (fresh, bouillon or canned low sodium) 

2 c bow tie pasta, cooked

1 -2 more T of truffle oil when incorporating mixture
2 Scallions, chopped

Directions:
Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook over medium heat until soft.  Turn heat up to medium high and add sliced mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms release their liquid; about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and stir until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are turning golden brown; about 7 minutes. Stir in 1 T truffle oil and salt and lots of pepper; at least three or four grinds. Remove from skillet.

Now prepare your kasha. In a medium bowl, mix the dry kasha with an egg until each kernel is coated. (This is done so that your kasha doesn't form a big soggy mess. I've seen crunchy bread crumbs also used, but kasha is better for you!) Measure your broth into a large glass measuring cup and heat in microwave on high until broth begins to simmer. While this is heating, place your egg coated kasha into a deep pot and toast over medium heat, turning and breaking up the kasha until the egg begins to dry, and the grains separate, about 3 minutes. You should smell it. It will smell nutty, but don't let it burn. Add the hot broth, then cover and simmer over very low heat until tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile bring salted water to a boil and cook your bow ties. Cook very al dente because you will be putting this in the oven where it will cook more. Preheat oven to 350.

In a lightly greased, (I used truffle oil) 3 quart shallow casserole, combine the kasha with the drained bow ties and the mushroom mixture. Adjust salt and pepper accordingly. Drizzle with truffle oil and make sure this mixture is moist. You can also use schmaltz or butter. Just remember you want this moist as you don't want a dry kasha. You could also stir in a bit more chicken broth if necessary. Place in oven and heat until hot, about 15 minutes. Garnish with scallions.



And the winner of the Whole Foods giveaway is Amanda Sakovitz!
Please contact me with your address by the end of the week!

Other great dishes:
Saffron Baked Chicken
Za'atar Chicken Flatbreads
Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas and Saffron Lime Aioli
Salted Butterscotch Chocolate Tart


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30 comments:

  1. Until today, I didn't even know what kasha varnishkes is... from the listed ingredients, I know I will definitely enjoy this pasta recipe.

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    1. You will Angie! And always fun to turn someone on to a new dish!

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  2. Funny. I think I've had a block against buckwheat because of my college years in California, where kasha was hippy, vegetarian food. But I love buckwheat pancakes, so I need buy some buckwheat groats and get cooking with them again. After all, it's been 40 years... Great recipe. Thanks!

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    1. I know what you mean Mimi! And really all the kasha does is give this some crunch. You wouldn't know it;s buckwheat, but your body knows it's good for you! Thank you!

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  3. However you say it, this sounds wonderful! Love these flavors and add truffle oil and I'm hooked.

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    1. Thanks Karen! You can't ever go wrong with truffle oil!

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  4. I'm going to make this. My BF is Jewish and he's forever talking about the foods his grand,a made. This sounds like something she would have served. If not at least I'll get an A for effort. GREG

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    1. More than an A, Greg! He'll love it!

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    2. Greg - if he is Jewish - especially of Russian or Eastern European extraction, then this is most certainly a must!

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  5. yum! we used to live nearby a highly concentrated jewish community and this totally reminded us of some good food we used to try!

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  6. This looks absolutely amazing, and seems easy to make. I’m going to try that thanks.

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    1. Oh Rachel. You are so welcome and thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Wow! I have never heard of Kasha Varnishkes. Truffle oil, gluten free and a sexy sounding name! Abbe, You have done it again!! you rock!

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    1. Well, thanks Ansh! the pasta though isn't gluten free unless you buy gluten free pasta! Sexy? I like that!

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  8. I better stock up on some groats! Looks like a terrific side for any meal :)

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    1. It is a great side dish and one I hope even your husband would enjoy! Let me know if I pass the test!

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  9. As far as I'm concerned? Anything combined with olive oil, mushrooms, chopped onions, garlic and truffle oil would be good. I tried saying the two words but not knowing if I'm saying it right I will hold off on thinking it is fun until I hear you pronounce them!

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    1. Well, Barb! You've got a point! And thank you!

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  10. Totally new to me but I have all the ingredients in the house. I think I'll give it a go just so I can say kasha varnishkes. :)

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  11. HI Abbe, what a fantastic dish, groats and pasta. I know I would love this!

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  12. Thanks Cheri! Let me know what you think!

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  13. Abbe: This sounds a wonderful dish but I have to say that I have never heard about it. Thanks for introducing it to us!!
    My Brazilian home city has a great Jewish history... In fact, many Jews who left the city centuries ago immigrated to NYC and helped to build that city. One of its bridges is very similar to one of ours.

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  14. Oh, but this dish is a classic! I remember so many friends' mothers cooking it when I was a kid. I love your touch of truffle oil-a real bit of elegance for this homey classic. Btava!

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  15. You know what, the name of Mama's Kasha Varnishkes itsel is really fancy and kinda seducing my curiousity already!!!
    delicious...

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  16. First, a new dish to me, which I love. Second, I've never used Buckweat Groat and third, I think it looks delicious - even if your mother never made it :) Now, I'm not going to be able to get the name Kasha Varnishkes out of my head all day, the same way I keep hearing Ragnar Lothbrok, but that's another story.

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  17. I have not ever cooked with buckwheat groats before, this is a very interesting dish and I have never heard of it before. Great for the cooler weather on its way..

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