Deconstructed Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha and Orzo with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Preparation info

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The bewitching aroma of sizzling, meaty mushrooms has been a powerful enchanter since ancient times. In the Babylonian Talmud, a rabbi recounts that he became so intoxicated by the captivating fragrance of a mushroom dish that his health would have been in grave danger had he not quickly been given some of the mushrooms to nibble.

These deconstructed kasha varnishkes feature sliced portobellos, marinated and grilled to enhance their resemblance to meat. Instead of noodles, the pasta is orzo, cooked in broth so it is flavorful and very moist when combined with the dry, fluffy kasha.

The meat will never be missed if you serve this at a vegetarian or dairy meal, substituting vegetable stock for the chicken broth.


  • 6 large portobello mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (to make the mushrooms even more meatlike) (optional)
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 4 cups rich chicken or vegetable broth or good-quality low-sodium canned
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup kasha, preferably coarse-grind
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ pound onions, chopped (3 cups)
  • Olive Oil Schmaltz, unsalted butter, or margarine, if needed
  • 2–3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)


  1. Clean the mushroom caps and stems with a damp paper towel. Carefully cut the stems off flush with the caps. Trim off the woody bottom section of the stems and discard. Chop the stems coarsely and set aside. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 teaspoons garlic, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the lemon juice, 2 teaspoons oil, and the rosemary, if using. Add the mushroom caps, press out the air, and seal the bag. Let the caps marinate at room temperature, turning the bag over occasionally, until you are ready to broil them.
  2. Soak the orzo in a bowl of fresh cold water for about 5 minutes to remove some of the starch. Empty into a strainer, rinse, and then drain. Bring 2 cups broth to a boil, stir in the orzo, and cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes until the orzo is tender and all the liquid is absorbed. Keep warm and covered until ready to combine ingredients.
  3. Preheat the broiler.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat the egg with a fork. Stir in the kasha and mix until each grain is thoroughly coated. Heat the remaining 2 cups broth to simmering. In a heavy 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, cover, and simmer over very low heat until tender and all the liquid is absorbed, 10–15 minutes. Keep covered and warm.
  5. In a heavy 10-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onions, stirring, until they are deep golden brown. Season well with salt and pepper. Transfer the onions to a large bowl. In the same skillet, sauté the reserved chopped mushroom stems and remaining 1 teaspoon garlic in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over high heat. Cook until the mushroom edges are tinged with bronze. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon soy sauce and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes to marry the ingredients. Transfer to the bowl, keeping it covered and warm.
  6. Arrange the mushroom caps on a foil-lined broiler rack, and broil them, gill side down, about 4 inches from the heat, for about 5 minutes. Turn, baste with any juices (or spilled bits of garlic), and broil for 5–6 minutes, or until tender and cooked through. Transfer the mushrooms to a cutting board.
  7. Add the cooked orzo and kasha to the onions and mushroom stems in the bowl. Combine the ingredients well and season with salt and pepper, if needed. If dry, add a little schmaltz, butter, or margarine.
  8. To serve, spoon some of the kasha-orzo mixture onto each plate. Slice the mushrooms on an angle and season to taste. Arrange the mushroom slices decoratively over the kasha mixture and nap with any accumulated mushroom juices. If desired, sprinkle with chopped parsley.