Buckwheat (contrary to its name) is both grain-free and gluten-free. It has no relation to wheat – in fact, it’s actually a seed that is related to rhubarb! Its health benefits are numerous – it’s great for your heart, it helps regulate your blood sugar, and it’s nutrient-packed (high levels of manganese, magnesium, and copper). Buckwheat is also high in protein relative to other grains and contains all nine amino acids.
If you’re not familiar with kasha already, you may be wondering why I’m rambling on about buckwheat. Well, kasha is actually toasted buckwheat, which means A) it has a wonderfully nutty, hearty flavor that makes for some fantastic eating and B) all my rambling about buckwheat is actually quite relevant.
Kasha cooks very quickly (more quickly than rice, millet, or quinoa!) which makes it a wonderful (pseudo) grain to accompany an entree. In this side dish, I’ve dressed it up a bit with the addition of onions, mushrooms, celery, and a killer spice mix. However, I probably wouldn’t call this kasha “zesty” if not for the addition of umeboshi paste, which you can read about in my Pantry section. Wow, does it add a special depth of flavor! If you are used to making kasha dishes with chicken or beef stock, umeboshi paste may be just what you need to get a similar richness when your vegetarian friends come over.
A couple notes about the recipe:
-If cooked improperly, kasha can be quite mushy and unappealing. To avoid this, always make sure your water has come to a rolling boil before adding your kasha. If you add your kasha and water at the same time, the kasha will immediately absorb all the water and end up very mushy and unevenly cooked.
-Don’t worry if it looks like there isn’t enough oil in the pot when you add the mushrooms. As soon as they start to cook, they’ll begin releasing moisture. The extra pinch of salt you’ll add with the mushrooms will help this happen quickly.
-As a side dish, this recipe will serve 4. It is delicious hot, cold, or at room temperature.
- 1 cup kasha
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons umeboshi paste + 2 teaspoons boiling water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 ribs celery, chopped (1 heaping cup)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
- ¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt, plus a couple pinches here and there
- 10 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
Bring the 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add the kasha and a pinch of salt, return to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes until all the water is absorbed. If the kasha is still a bit al dente, leave it covered with the burner off for 5-10 more minutes until it is nice and tender. Mix together the umeboshi paste and boiling water and add it to the kasha. Stir very well to incorporate, then set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté for 2-3 minutes until it starts to soften. Add the celery, spices and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and an extra pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are done. Don’t stir too often because you want those mushrooms to brown a bit! When the mushrooms are done, add the teensiest bit (about 1 tablespoon) of cold water to the pan and scrape to unstick any stuck pieces (you want to get all that delicious flavor off the pan and into your food!) Add the kasha and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and stir well to incorporate. Sauté for 1-2 more minutes, just until the kasha is nice and hot.