It’s been freaking cold in Sonoma this last week! Even the hardiest of plants have succumbed to wilting, so keeping warm and comfortable has been my personal objective. To that end (I absolutely abhor the much over-used “having said that”), I gravitated to the Russian health food favorite, buckwheat (or kasha)!
I was going to make the kasha with fried onions and mushrooms. However, once I had the box in hand, I decided to try something new: Varnishkas. “Varnishkas” apparently is the Yiddish makeover of “Varenichki”, the Russian diminutive of “Vareniki,” stuffed and boiled dumplings. In cold weather, the stuffing is kasha, rather than fruit, and the Varenichki are served with melted butter, sour cream, and chopped dill. (So much in Russian cuisine seems to end with these last three ingredients!)Kasha Varnishkas are eastern european in origin and I’m sure were part of the cuisine my father must have encountered in his native Zhitomir a city with a large Jewish population. Another twist on the original Vareniki is the use of bow tie pasta (farfalle) instead of stuffing fresh pasta with kasha. To honor Zhimotir, the new year, and to escape the cold, here is my version of Kasha Varnishkas.
1) Boil 1 cup bow tie pasta in salted water. Drain and save.
2) Saute in 2Tbsp. oil or butter, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1-2 rib(s) of celery chopped, and 1/2 cup chopped onion. When slightly soft, set aside.
2) Cook 1 cup whole grain roasted buckwheat in 2 cups chicken broth. Bring the broth to a boil, add salt if needed, a tablespoon of butter and drop the buckwheat into the broth. Cover the saucepan, turn down to low. Let the grain absorb the liquid for about 20 minutes (like rice). When done, fluff up the grain, mix in the vegetables and pasta, salt and pepper to taste, and voila, Kasha Pilaf Varnishkas.
Stay Warm, Maria