Kasha and Mushroom Casserole

Time: 35 minutes preparation 25 minutes no-work cooking time

Thanks to my grandmother, I’ve always loved kasha, both the grain and the Russian dish in which it appears most often. My grandmother prepared it the Jewish way in kasha varnishkes—buckwheat stirred into a bowl of bow-tie noodles.

I’ve updated her dish and serve it as a pilaf. Robust in taste and hearty in nutrition, this one-pot meal will fill the emptiest of tummies, lickety-split.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large bell pepper, any color
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup kasha (roasted buckwheat kernels, medium grain) 1 egg or 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 cups boiling chicken broth or water
  • ¾ pound smoked or baked ham, preferably 95% or more fat free
  • Fresh dill for garnish (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt (optional)

Method

  1. Chop the onion. Core, seed, and chop the bell peppers. Mince the garlic. Rinse, stem, and thinly slice the mushroom caps (reserve stems for soup).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper; stir-fry For a minute just to get them going. Cover the pan and simmer over medium heat until the onion and pepper are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, mix the buckwheat with the egg (or egg whites if you are on a no-cholesterol diet) with clean hands until each grain is coated. If the grains clump together, break them up with your fingers.
  4. When the onion and pepper are soft, add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 30 seconds. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the caraway seeds and broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  5. Place the pan with the kasha over medium-high heat. With a wooden spoon, flatten, stir, and chop the egg-coated kasha until the egg has dried and the kernels are hot and mostly separate, 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Averting your face to avoid any splattering liquid, gently ladle the boiling liquid, mushrooms, and other solids into the kasha. Bring the liquid back to a simmer, cover the pan tightly, and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile cut the ham into ½-inch cubes and mince the dill for garnish, if using. Remove the kasha from the heat, stir in the ham, and let the dish stand covered for 10 minutes to heat the ham through without toughening it.
  8. Season the dish well with salt and pepper. Top with sour cream and sprinkle with dill.

Variation

For a spicier version: Substitute ¾ pound chorizo for the ham. Thinly slice the chorizo and sauté in a small skillet until somewhat crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. After the kasha is cooked, fold in the chorizo when you would have the ham. This is wonderful with sour cream.

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