Friday, January 13, 2006

Do you eat kasha?

The host of this week's Carnival of the Recipes, the Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room, recently posted about how far she feels their family has fallen in attempts to "eat healthy." Her mention of things like raw goat's milk and babies eating sweet potatoes made me laugh, because when The Apprentice was small we were doing much the same thing. The Apprentice didn't have candy or even more than the occasional Arrowroot cookie until she was old enough to know the difference, and her food-grinder baby dinners were often mashed with tofu or sprinkled with kelp. (That is actually a good iodine supplement. I wasn't a complete idiot.) And we did eat kasha...frequently enough that I do remember toddler Apprentice at least knowing what it was called when she met it in her bowl. (Kasha, at least in the way I mean it, is just a name for toasted buckwheat groats, cooked soft like rice.)

And like the DHM, our eating habits have changed enough that, when I bought a bag of kasha yesterday and decided to resurrect an old favourite recipe for it, not only did nobody remember what it was or even eating it, but we had an awfully big bowlful of it left. I will optimistically put that down to a tummy bug that's been stalling everyone's appetites here, and to the fact that kasha, like any long-forgotten friend, takes some getting used to again. It doesn't taste like rice. It doesn't taste like oats. It just tastes like itself...sort of toasted-nutty, a little bit stronger-flavoured than other grains (and it's not technically a grain, it's a relative of rhubarb). You can do all sorts of things with it and there are lots of traditional recipes for using it (like blintzes and kasha varnishkes), and non-traditional ones as well (there are some ideas here). You can also just cook it till it's soft, like rice or oatmeal.

So I'm not sorry I attempted to at least re-introduce kasha; although the encounter may not have been the most delightful, it was nice (at least for me) to renew an old acquaintance, and maybe I can find something appetizing to do with the leftovers.

Here's the recipe I made; it made a lot (for us). You could try cutting it in half. It came from the January 1992 Vegetarian Times; I'm sorry that I don't know who wrote the article.

Kasha-Vegetable Pilaf

1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (we skipped this; see below, it's a garnish)
1 1/2 cups dry kasha
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas (I skipped these and used one can of corn niblets instead)

If you're doing the onion garnish: in a small skillet, heat oil and saute onion until it turns medium brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place kasha in an ungreased skilled over medium-low heat, and toast for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until the kasha becomes slightly darker. Add the beaten egg and stir quickly to coat the grains. Immediately add boiling water but do not stir. Add vegetables on top. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed, kasha is puffy, and sweet potato is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle sauteed onions on top, if you want them. (It's suggested that you can also add the raw onions to the kasha along with the other vegetables instead of sauteeing them.)

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