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The Russian Posts: Kasha Varnishkes

February 8, 2009

As you know, I’m reading Anna Karenina, and I thought that as I read along I would try some Russian recipes just for fun.

Tonight was the first in (hopefully) a long line of delicious experiments: Kasha Varnishkes.

Kasha is buckwheat groats, toasted. I have very little experience with buckwheat, aside from the occasional buckwheat pancake, soba noodles, or this amazing buckwheat shortbread cookie. However, it was cold and dark and what’s not to like about toasty groats, caramelized onions, butter and pasta? I mean, seriously.

I have a suspicion that buckwheat kasha *may* be an acquired taste (it’s kind of gross plain), but you acquire the taste very quickly when you add in butter and salt and onions. It’s got an interesting texture, but it went very nicely with the al dente pasta.

Kasha Varnishkes

3 to 4 cups chopped onions
1 cup kasha
3 TBLS olive oil (or more)
salt and pepper
2-4 TBLS butter
1 pound bowtie pasta (I used pasta mista, see note below)
1. Put onions in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Cover skillet and cook for about 10 minutes, until onion is dry and almost sticking to pan. Add oil, raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is nicely browned, at least 10 minutes or so longer.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a separate, medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil, stir in the kasha and about a teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer until kasha is soft and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Let stand, off heat and covered.

3. Salt the large pot of boiling water and cook noodles until tender but still firm. Drain and combine with the onions and kasha, adding butter if you like. Season with salt and lots of pepper and loosen your belt.

(note: I found this interesting pasta thing from De Cecco: pasta mista. Looks like all kinds of odds and ends of pasta noodles, but it was really tasty and a good size/texture for this dish)

This seems like a very good Russian-winter dish (I read that it’s often Russian Jewish comfort food). It’s hearty, tasty, fills you up and is super-cheap to make (I think the whole dish, which serves AT LEAST six, cost maybe $3. I have lunch for at least 3 days next week)

Did Anna eat Kasha Varnishkes? We’ll have to see.

In the meantime, I’m quite happy to have discovered this recipe and it will definitely be going in the rotation. Yum.

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