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Kasha, Grain of the Week

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Eastern Europeans know roasted buckwheat groats as kasha and eat it like porridge. Buckwheat is sold as groats, grits, or flour. Groats are pale kernels without the hard, inedible outer shell. You can buy them whole or cracked into coarse, medium, or fine grinds. Roasted groats -- kasha -- are dark kernels. Keep buckwheat in a well-sealed container in a cool, dark place. I keep mine in the refrigerator I do the same with all my grains and brown rice.

Kasha has a nice nutty flavor. If you don't care for kasha plain, mix it in with pasta, grains, potatoes, or vegetables -- especially winter vegetables. It makes a hearty, flavorful meal. For pilafs, stuffing, and soups, use whole kasha. Save the medium and fine grinds for cereals.

To cook: Rinse 1/2 cup whole groats thoroughly, then combine with a cup of water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. It will triple in volume. Or combine 1/2 cup of cracked kasha with 21/2 cups of liquid and cook for 12 minutes, to yield 2 cups.

Health Benefits:

Kasha contains all essential amino acids, which is pretty unusual for a grain. That alone makes it important because of it’s high protein level. In fact, buckwheat is a seed of a fruit and as such, it's gluten-free.

Kasha contains the following minerals: phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese.

It's traditionally used to fix low hemoglobin and frequent colds and flu.

It's shown that buckwheat is beneficial for diabetes due to its low Glycemic Index.

It lowers blood pressure and reduce cholesterol - effects attributed to buckwheat high fiber content.

Kasha Breakfast Porridge

2 cups water
1 stick cinnamon, broken in two
1 cup kasha
1 pinch salt
Maple syrup to taste

In a small saucepan, combine water and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Add kasha and a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve porridge with maple syrup to taste. (Feel free to substitute honey or brown sugar.) Thickness can be adjusted according to preference by adding more water, milk or soy milk.

Kasha with Onions and Mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, halved
and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
12 ounces shiitake mushrooms,
stems discarded and
caps thickly sliced
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup whole-grain kasha
1 cup water
3/4 cup carrot juice
Salt to taste

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add
onions, sprinkle with sugar, and cook, stirring frequently,
until onions are golden brown and tender, about 15 minutes.

Add mushrooms, sage, and pepper and cook, stirring
frequently until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place kasha in medium skillet over medium
heat and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted,
about 5 minutes.

Combine water, carrot juice, and salt in medium saucepan
over medium heat and bring to boil. Add kasha, cover,
and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork,
then transfer to pan with onion mixture and toss together
to combine.

Kasha with Bowtie Pasta

1 cup kasha buckwheat groats, medium granulation
1 egg, well beaten
2 Tablespoons rendered chicken fat or vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken stock or use canned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pasta bow ties

In a small bowl, mix the kasha with the beaten egg. Be sure all the grains are covered with egg. Place a medium non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the kasha to the pan and, using a wooden fork, flatten it out a bit, stirring and moving it about the pan until the egg dries and the grains have mostly separated. Set aside.

Place a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta bow ties. (Do not cook them yet.)

In a 4-quart heavy stove-top covered casserole, heat the chicken fat or oil and sauté the onions until clear. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the salt and pepper and the reserved kasha. Stir a bit and cover. Cook over low heat, stirring now and then, until the kasha is tender, about 10 minutes. If it is not done to your taste, cook for a few more minutes.

In the meantime, boil the pasta just until tender. Drain well and stir into the kasha.

Spicy Kasha Vegetable Salad

1 cup buckwheat kasha
2 cups vegetable broth
2 medium tomatoes, chopped fine
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper chopped
1/2 large cucumber peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or pomegranate molasses)
1-3 teaspoon hot pepper paste or sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon water

Heat 2 cups of vegetable broth (or heat water and add vegetable bouillon). While you're waiting for it to come to a boil, toast the kasha in a large, dry saucepan for about 3 minutes, or until it releases a nutty aroma. When the broth reaches a boil, add it carefully to the kasha (watch out for spatters!) Cover and turn the heat very low. Cook until kasha is tender and all liquid is absorbed, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff, and allow to cool. Kasha can be refrigerated and stored overnight, if necessary.

Add all chopped vegetables and the chickpeas to the kasha. Mix the lemon juice and remaining ingredients well and add them to the kasha, stirring so that the dressing is distributed evenly. Serve mounded in the center of a large platter, with butternut lettuce leaves. To eat, spoon some of the salad into a lettuce leaf and eat like a taco or burrito.

Kasha Stuffed Zucchini Halves

8 cups water
3 medium (7-inch) zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium (1/2 cup) onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup uncooked medium roasted buckwheat groats (kasha)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary leaves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350°F. Bring 8 cups water to a full boil in 4-quart saucepan; add zucchini halves. Cover; cook over medium-high heat until crisply tender (6 to 8 minutes). Drain; rinse with cold water. With melon ball scoop or spoon, scoop seeds and pulp from zucchini, leaving 1/4-inch shell; reserve 1/2 cup pulp. Drain reserved pulp; chop coarsely. Set aside.

Place zucchini shells in 11x7-inch baking dish; set aside. Melt butter in 10-inch skillet until sizzling; add onion and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until onion is crisply tender (1 to 2 minutes).

Combine beaten egg and kasha in small bowl; stir until coated. Add kasha to skillet with onion and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until kernels are separate and dry (1 to 2 minutes). Reduce heat to medium; stir in reserved zucchini pulp, water, bouillon granules, rosemary and pepper.

Cover; continue cooking until kasha is tender and liquid is absorbed (7 to 10 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in Parmesan cheese.
Spoon kasha mixture evenly into zucchini shells. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until zucchini is heated through.

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