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December 13, 2007

Kasha/buckwheat groats (Recipe: kasha varnishkes)

The house is almost back in order after last weekend's Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation. I'm gathering some photos to share with you this weekend, so please enjoy one more post, and a slightly updated seasonal recipe, from The Perfect Pantry archives.

Kasha

This week, our cooking group "traveled" to western Russia, with recipes from Moldavia, Byelorussia (aka "White Russia"), and Georgia. And, though most of the recipes were new to me, I included one from my own family's heritage: kasha varnishkes.

Kasha is buckwheat kernels that have been stripped of their inedible outer coating and crushed into smaller pieces, and then toasted in oil to bring out the nutty flavor. While many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, it's actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel.

Like onions or garlic or Miracle Whip, kasha is one of those things I'm never without. I don't use it often, but I know it's standing by in the pantry whenever a craving hits (usually around the time the cold weather arrives in Rhode Island). The ultimate comfort food, kasha varnishkes makes a great vegetarian main dish, though in my family it's the traditional side served with my grandmother's brisket recipe. You can use kasha to stuff baked squash, toss it with sauteéd mushrooms, or as a stuffing for turkey.

Buckwheat contains no gluten, making kasha sans varnishkes (bow-tie egg noodles) perfect for anyone with wheat allergies.

(Hmmm...kasha without varnishkes? Like separating Abbott from Costello.) 

Kasha varnishkes

One of the women in the World Cuisines group asked whether, if you have to substitute on the varnishkes, it's the bow-tie part or the egg part that's most important. I had to think about that. For me, definitely, it's got to be bow ties, so use farfalle if you can't find the egg noodles in your market. Serves 6-8 as a side, or 4 as a main course.

Ingredients

1 box Goodman's egg bow-ties, or 1 lb farfalle, prepared according to package directions
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup kasha (medium granulation)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups liquid (water, homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock)
2 Tbsp butter, optional
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
Black pepper to taste

Directions

In a small frying pan, sauté the onion in canola oil.  Set aside.

In a bowl, mix the kasha and beaten egg with a fork until all of the kernels are coated with the egg.  In a small pot or in the microwave, bring the liquid, butter, salt and pepper to a boil. Set aside.

In another small pot over medium heat, cook the kasha, stirring constantly with a fork to heat and separate all the kernels, for about 1-2 minutes until all the kernels come apart. Remove from heat, and pour in the liquid and onions. Stir, then cover immediately and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl and mix with the egg bow ties. Serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Quinoa pudding
Couscous for a summer night
Farfalle with spinach and sausage
Mushroom barley soup

Comments

How interesting! I've never seen buckwheat with noodles before - I guess I live too far up north for that :) I tend to use whole buckwheat groats (I guess most Estonian cooks do) - sauteed in some butter, then simmered in water results in a delicious buckwheat porridge, which can be eaten as it is, or mixed with some mushrooms or ham (there's a recipe for warm buckwheat and mushroom salad on my blog that I love)

I've never had kasha! Can you imagine? Obviously, I must rectify this. It looks beautiful, by the way.

I actually prefer my kasha without varnishkas, heresy, I know! As long as there's lots of mushroom gravy, I could eat them plain for days!

I've always wanted to make kasha varnishkes!! Sounds great.

I have yet to try Kasha as it's really hard to find over here, but I find that things like Quinoa and Cous Cous and Bulghar Wheat are indispensible too,yet I only use them maybe four times a year? What's that about?

Pille, we always had kasha with noodles when I was growing up. My grandparents were from Poland, where this was a common dish. I remember the mushroom and buckwheat recipe from your blog -- wonderful!

Sher, kasha is very light and fluffy when it's cooked, and combines well with chicken or roast vegetables. I think you'll like it.

Ann, no varnishkes? Heresy!! But mushroom gravy does sound delicious.....

Dana, it's so easy to make this. I hope you'll try it.

Freya, I'm so surprised that you can find quinoa but not buckwheat. Makes no sense to me at all, since buckwheat is more traditionally European, and quinoa is South American.

We always have some kasha in the cupboard. My wife tells me she never really liked it until she left Poland, now it reminds her of home. She also says that kasha (kasza in her case) is also the generic name for all grains, as well as meaning buckwheat groats. She normally serves hers with beef stew.

This brings back really vibrant memories of my grandparents and also all the bar mitzvahs I went to as a young teen. Kasha varnishka was the standard fare

never heard of that, either. it´s incredible.
if you were making Georgian stuff, you might maybe have a recipe for adjika? I fell in love with it in Estonia, but can´t find a reliable source for Georgian recipes.

Neil, my Polish grandmother used to serve kasha with flanken, which is a boiled beef dish that you've probably enjoyed. I've always known of the term "kasha" as it refers to buckwheat, so I'm glad to know that it is used more broadly.

Ronnie, same here -- deep and loving memories of my grandmother, who was the cook in our lives. I think she always made kasha with noodles, as a way to get us kids to eat the healthy grain.

Lobstersquad, I don't know the recipe you mention, but I have a great book in my collection -- Georgian Feasts, by Darra Goldstein. If adjika is in there, I'll email the recipe to you.

I first tried kasha varnishkes probably 30 years ago. I can date it because I remember cooking it in the kitchen of our first house in Dallas. I have no idea why I have such a clear memory of it on the stove, just about ready to put on the table. Then there was some delay. The throw the veggies in on top, turned the heat off and when I came back 30 minutes later it was just perfect and even two little boys loved it!

A favorite comfort food for me, for all the reasons above. Also the cause of 2 of my worst kitchen disasters: one involving little black crawly things (never seen before or since); the other, not boiling the water before adding it, using an enameled cast iron pot -- I realized when I started eating that the little crunchy things were the enamel lining of the pot, shattered beyond repair!

PS! There are different grades of kasha. You're using a medium, I grew up with 'whole' and it goes down to the fine 'Cream of Buckwheat' for breakfast. Burkett Mills and Pocono have websites.

Oh wow! Does this post bring me back! :) My grandma used to order kasha and varnishkes everytime we'd carry in from a Jewish deli. I hated the stuff! :) Now...I think I like it.

MyKitchen, isn't it funny how we remember certain "food moments" so clearly?

Susan, I've heard of people adding lots of things to kasha, but adding the pot itself isn't one of them! Oh dear... Yes, I prefer the medium granulation, but I can find several in the grocery store. Thanks for mentioning that.

Hillary, if you didn't like it as a child, do try it again. If you're into grains at all, you'll really like kasha, and when you cook it yourself you can make it quite soft and fluffy.

I have never tasted kasha either! Time to buy some and try this hearty and delicious dish that I have heard so much about. Lydia, I just bought some buckwheat flour. Are you planning to do a post on that any time? I would love to incorporate buckwheat into my diet.

Yum! I love kasha varnishkes. Now I have to make it gluten-and-egg free. You've inspired me to try, though. Why not?

Hi Lydia,
Thanks for the kasha post ... I like kasha and forget to make it... it's so yummy. And, I learned something new, kasha is a fruit seed. I like your interesting food facts that I don't read anywhere else!

Nupur, I think you'd like kasha -- it is particularly good with mushrooms and onions. I don't have buckwheat flour in my pantry at the moment, so I haven't planned a post about it. But maybe it's time to give it another try -- I haven't used it in ages.

Karina, please share your recipe when you do make it!

Meg, thanks so much. I love kasha, and I'm betting you do some interesting things with it. Do share!

Never tried kasha but I have used buckwheat flour. Thanks for the info again Lydia , I could always count on you to introduce me to a new ingredient!

Veron, now I'm going to have to give buckwheat flour a more serious look, as both you and Nupur have mentioned it. Kasha is wonderful and earthy, perfect for these cold days.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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