This was my lunch or dinner a couple of months ago on a regular basis. It was divine. Luckily, I remembered to take at least this picture before I ate the whole thing on that particular day. It’s already about half gone.
I love to eat things in bowls. The wonderful woman who has been coming to my house on Wednesdays for over a decade to help me with cleaning and errands likes to tease me that I “build” my lunch. It’s an accurate observation that always makes me laugh. Here’s what I did to “build” my bowl full of these goodies: I sauteed a few mushrooms in water, a splash of coconut aminos, and some sprinkles of garlic granules. Then I added a big fistful of greens to the saute. In this case it happened to be broccoli leaves and kale from my garden, and a torn up chard leaf. Once the greens were wilted, I added some cooked buckwheat groats and tossed them around to warm up, adding splashes of water as needed to prevent sticking. Then I dumped it into my bowl, and sprinkled it with a little ground flax and nutrituional yeast. Then I topped that with some chopped red cabbage, raw. Then I sprinkled on some balsamic vinegar I had infused with pear slices and dried cloves. Then I topped that with a leftover spoonful of lentil salad (cooked brown lentils, chopped celery, shallot or onion, raw zucchini, fresh dill and fennel, red bell pepper and a dressing of dijon mustard, raspberry red wine vinegar, lemon juice and garlic). Then I mixed it all up and ate it.
Though the word “wheat” is contained in its name, buckwheat is actually not a grain. Buckwheat groats, also know as kasha, are actually fruit seeds, related to rhubarb. (If you like fun food factoids, you can read some more about buckwheat here.)
Buckwheat groats are a cinch to cook. And completely gluten free, if you need that, like I do. They only take about ten minutes on the stovetop. The ratio of water to groats is two to one. Here’s what I do. Heat a heavy sauce pan on medium heat for about 30 seconds. Lightly toast the buckwheat groats, just until you can smell them. Add the water. When it comes to a boil, turn down to simmer, cover, and set the timer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat after that, but leave the lid on and let them sit and steam and cool down a few minutes. Serve. I have a gas stove, so this may vary if you have a different kind of stove, but probably not much.
This last step removes their tendency to stick to the pan. If they steam in the pan off the heat for a few minutes, they don’t stick. (This also eliminates the need for following complicated instructions to coat them with fat or egg white which are sometimes seen in more traditional recipes.)
You can use these in place of rice in a stir fry type dish like I did. They are also great in a bowl of peasant style soup with greens on the bottom, the warm “faux grain” on top of the greens and then a hearty bean or lentil soup ladled over both of them. And if you happen to love beets like I do, they are a great add-in to a bowl of borscht, such as the wonderful recipe in Kathy Hester’s fabulous book, The Vegan Slow Cooker. (You can read Susan’s review of the book here.)
For a long time I stuck to buckwheat groats at breakfast time. Here is my simple gluten free version of Rip’s big bowl: gluten free (uncooked) rolled oats, raw (uncooked) buckwheat groats, and seasonal fruit (in this case, Bosc pears from my tree):
I also add a shake or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardomom, and, a splash of vanilla extract if I’m feeling fancy. Equal parts grains and a mixture of almond milk and water. Just let it sit for a few minutes in the fridge while you check e-mail. Then top with a teaspoon of golden flax meal. The buckwheat groats give a nutty crunch to the “bowl” without the gluten and processing in a product like Grape Nuts cereal.
Buckwheat groats also make really good pancakes or pancake toppings. Here’s two recipes I have used.
This one comes from the Food and Recipes section on the McDougall forum. It is the buckwheat groat version of Simplest Oatmeal Pancakes.
Simplest Buckwheat Pancakes
You will need:
2 cups of buckwheat groats (or combine GF Oats and the groats)
2 cups Water
1 Ripe Banana
2T or less Real Maple Syrup or Date paste or date syrup
1 t Vanilla
Blend all ingredients in the blender.
Let stand to thicken as you heat up a non-stick pan or griddle.
Pour by 1/3 cup onto griddle. Sprinkle the top of the pancake with buckwheat groats before turning, if you’d like a crunchy effect, like putting sunflowers seeds or nuts on pancakes.
And here’s one adapted from this recipe at Post Punk Kitchen. It’s my oil free version, with a few other tweaks, too.
Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes
Makes 8 five inch pancakes
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (or groats ground up in the blender, food processor or grinder)
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons date syrup or paste, or maple syrup
2 tablespoons pear or applesauce
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Kasha for sprinkling on the pancakes as you cook them
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all flours, ground flax seeds, tapioca, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Create a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients. Use a fork to mix well for about a minute. Let the batter rest while you heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat. When beads of water dance on it’s cooking surface, it’s hot enough. Use an ice cream scooper to pour batter and form pancakes. (Issa does two at a time. Sometimes I do two at a time, sometimes only one). The pancake should start to form little air bubbles. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2 minutes more. Keep warm until ready to serve.
AND. . . . the crunch of buckwheat groats is a great topping for homemade fruit “ice cream” or “sorbet”:
And remember those Persimmon Bars at Straight Up Food? If you don’t want to use a whole half cup of walnuts in the recipe, sub some or all of them out with kasha. It works fine.
Some people like to buy already toasted buckwheat groats instead of raw. In fact, I’ve heard the toasted ones are easier to find in stores. But I prefer the raw ones (I buy them in bulk at my co-op.) That way I can toast them or not. And I like the texture of cooked raw kasha better. Also easier for my “fibro” tummy to digest. But if you are a fan of toasted, here is a good recipe from Susan for Spicy Kasha Vegetable Salad. It’s where I first learned to use them. It’s a good basic recipe you can change up as you like.
My newest expression of kasha love is to eat them topped with this easy and incredibly flavorful eggplant stew from my friend Fulenn’s blog Vegan Day to Day. (She also manages her MS beautifully by eating this way.) With a steamed veggie medley on the side, this dinner is what I would call Fall Ambrosia. Kasha’s earthy flavor and toothsome texture goes great with any sauce or veggie you would eat with pasta, such as greens, tomatoes, mushrooms or eggplant. A tradtional Russian Jewish dish even pairs buckwheat groats wtth the pasta itself.
Buckwheat groats are definitely peasant food. But I come from a long line of peasants. The highlight of my Summer reading this year was a wonderful recent translation of Dr. Zhivago. When Zhivago meets up again with Lara in Yuriatin, and they begin their doomed but beautiful love affair, the first time they speak she invites him in for a while, saying, “The kasha’s in the oven.” So Pasternak thought it was good enough for Yuri and Lara, who turned out to be two of literature’s greatest lovers, though they were punished for NOT being peasants. And in their idyllic time at Varikyno, Yuri Zhivago and his beloved aristocratic wife Tonya grew and ate potatoes. So there ya go. If we could all love like all of them did each other in the worst and most heartbreaking of times, maybe we’d be better off. Does simple food help that along? Could it be the magnesium in the kasha? The potassium in the potatoes? Maybe. Maybe. I’m more than willing to consider such possible magic.