In Québec, locally grown and organic buckwheat is plentiful. When the groats are toasted, you get kasha: a robust and earthy grain that also has a really impressive amino acid profile making it a good plant-based source of protein. While some object to that earthiness and the bitter undertones it has, others (like me) find it warming and fortifying, particularly in cold weather. To bring out its best, cooking it stove-top with robust spices and hearty winter crops is ideal. If you have the time and inclination, it’s also worth roasting your own rather than buying it at the store – the taste will reward you many times over and perhaps even make you a kasha-convert as I’ve become.
Yield: 4 servings
What you need:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small or medium onion, sliced into really thing slivers along the length
- 1 cup shimeji mushrooms, cut off the stalk (quartered cremini or button mushrooms also work, but the presentation isn’t quite so dainty)
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
- 3/4 teaspoon caraway
- 1 cup kasha
- 2 cups water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon herb salt or 2 cups salted mushroom or vegetable broth
What you do:
- Heat a large skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, onions and mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Stir and fry until the onions are soft and translucent and the mushrooms have released their moisture, 5-7 minutes. If you like crispy bits and some browning, feel free to go longer – it’s good that way too!
- Add the cabbage, celery seed, caraway seed and another pinch of salt. Mix the cabbage into the onions and mushrooms and cook until the cabbage is wilted, 4-5 minutes – it won’t be cooked through yet – that’s fine.
- Add the kasha and stir to distribute it throughout the vegetables.
- Add the salted water or broth and bring to a boil (it will happen pretty much immediately). Tightly cover the skillet or pan, using foil to seal the edges and keep the moisture in if necessary, turn the heat to low and let cook until all the liquid is absorbed, usually 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from heat, let sit 10 minutes and then check for seasoning and serve.
Variation when it’s damn cold and windy out:
- Add a hefty dose of black pepper to the salted water or broth and serve the kasha with a generous ladle full of creamy nut sauce (walnut-based works really well here).