Properly cooked so it remains dry and fluffy, kasha, when mixed with noodles, could swallow up butter or chicken fat by the cupful. I remove the temptation to slather on lots of fat by moistening this hearty grain with plenty of caramelized onions and mushrooms, I also add sautéed eggplant for the same reason: fried cubes of it, like mushrooms, bring a melting butteriness to foods.
Though most American recipes for kasha varnishkes call for bow tie noodles, I find them too thick and starchy here, requiring, like the kasha, a lot of additional moisture. I break wide noodles in half to resemble the square noodles originally used—and best suited—for this dish.
The eggplant, mushrooms, and onions enrich and lighten the kasha varnishkes at the same time. You don’t really need all three (and if pressed for time, you could eliminate either the mushrooms or the eggplant—or the noodles), but cooked together this is a very satisfying dish, substantial enough to serve as centerpiece for a delicious vegetarian meal (or near-vegetarian, if using chicken broth). To simplify preparations, make it in advance, up to the point of heating the ingredients in the oven. And you need to use only one skillet for all the vegetables.
Put the eggplant in a colander, and sprinkle evenly with
While the eggplant is draining, heat
Lightly rinse out the skillet and dry it. Add
Wipe out the skillet and in it heat the remaining
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Prepare the kasha: in a medium bowl, beat the egg with a fork. Stir in the kasha and mix until each grain is thoroughly coated with egg. Heat the broth to simmering. In a heavy medium skillet with high sides or a wide heavy saucepan, toast the kasha over medium heat, turning and breaking up the kasha constantly until the egg begins to dry and the grains separate, about 3 minutes. Add the hot broth and salt and pepper to taste, then cover and simmer over very low heat until tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
In a lightly greased
“But Ephraim and lzzy, given their secret horde of Jewish soul food, were not as infected as the rest of the company … [The] ever-resourceful Izzy … was able to leaven their intake of poisonous meat with delicacies that Izzy had shrewdly held back. So one Friday night they might gorge themselves on kasha fried in chicken fat and the next on rice prepared in a similar fashion.”
Solomon Gursky Was Here
© 2008 Jayne Cohen. All rights reserved.