September 22, 2010

Indian dinner | Kasha varniskes | Bye bye summer | Spam

Samosas, Basmati rice, and whole wheat roti
Last night we attended the monthly dinner sponsored by Vegetarians of Washington. Each month a vegetarian dinner is catered by a different Seattle area restaurant. The dinners are always vegan, but the diners are a very diverse group that includes eaters of all ages, occupations and dietary persuasions. Last night we had a great time with a particularly congenial group of people, and we all enjoyed an Indian meal presented by Pabla Indian Cuisine, with restaurants in Renton and Issaquah.

Kabli Channa (Punjabi style garbanzo beans)
Mixed vegetable curry
Aloo gobi (spiced potatoes and cauliflow
In addition to the foods pictured above, we also had rice pudding for dessert, and received Nature's Path Peanut Choco chewy granola bars as an extra treat.


Kasha and bow-ties

 In my last post I displayed a photo of kasha and bowties (kasha varnishkes) made with shiitake dashi, shiitake mushrooms* and miso, promising a recipe. I'm posting a recipe with less exotic ingredients, instead, and a note on using shiitakes. For one thing, I'm out of dried shiitakes and need to make a trip to our favorite Asian market to restock our supplies. Instead of trekking down to the International District, my husband headed to the closest supermarket to purchase fresh mushrooms and raw, hulled buckwheat groats.*

As I have written in an earlier post, "traditionally, in Russia, kasha means porridge and can be made from any whole grain or combination of grains. To me, it means buckwheat groats, and kasha varnishkes is buckwheat and noodles, specifically bowtie noodles. Kasha varnishkes is a traditional comfort food brought to America by Russian Jewish immigrants.

Buckwheat is actually the seed of a fruit, not a grain. (You can read all about buckwheat and its possible appropriateness in gluten-free diets here.) It is very nutritious, delicious and quick cooking. Hulled, raw buckwheat is called buckwheat groats, and that's what I'm starting with in this recipe. After it's toasted it's called kasha."

Kasha and bow-ties
  • 8 to 10 ounce package bow-tie pasta (or other small pasta or flat noodle)
  • 1 cup raw, hulled buckwheat groats*
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 to 1-1/4 cups)
  • 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (about 8 or 9 mushrooms or 2 heaping cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoon tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon evaporated cane juice (natural sugar)
  • heaping 1/2 cup minced parsley
  1. Cook the pasta, drain, (toss with 1 teaspoon of oil if desired) and set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy, dry pan such as cast iron, toast the buckwheat until fragrant (about 4 to 5 minutes) stirring continually.
  3. Add the oil to the pan then add the onions and mushrooms. Cook and stir until the onions begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
  4. Stir in the garlic and a pinch of salt (less then 1/8 teaspoon). Cook and stir for about a minute.
  5. Add the 1-1/2 cups of hot water to the pan slowly. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to simmer, and cover the pan. Cook until the buckwheat is tender and dry. (about 12 to 15 minutes)
  6. Meanwhile, add the tamari to the warm water. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir to dissolve sugar.
  7. When the buckwheat is tender, mix in the noodles. Stir in the tamari mixture.
  8. Stir in the parsley, reserving some for a garnish. Grind black pepper over the kasha. Taste for salt and add more if necessary. Serves 4 to 6.
*If you can only find toasted buckwheat groats, you can skip the pan toasting and start cooking the kasha at step 3. Warm the oil in the pan, then add the onion, mushrooms and toasted buckwheat to the pan together.

*You can also make this with dried shiitake mushrooms and mushroom broth. Soak 8 to 10 dried mushrooms in 2 cups of warm (not hot) water in a bowl for at least an hour, or until soft. Squeeze out the mushrooms into the bowl, remove the stems and slice the mushrooms. Add enough water to the broth, if necessary, to make 1-1/2 cups. Make the recipe using the shiitakes and broth instead of the fresh mushrooms and water.


Bye bye, summer

Spider web-draped still-green tomatoes and a lone pepper from our tabletop garden.
With fall officially here, there's no choice but to bid summer a sad goodbye. I'm not one of those people who can't wait for the cool, damp, RAINY days of fall. (Oh wait, wasn't "cool, rainy" supposed to be a description of winter? Or was that spring? Or maybe even a good part of this past summer, here in the PNW?) Cool-rainy is not my favorite type of weather (and thank heavens I spent the summer in the blazing Midwest where I soaked up heat like a sponge) so I hate to see summer — even a less-than-perfect summer — end. I like soup, and and other cold-weather foods like kasha, as much as anyone, but I like sunshine more. Come back, sun come back. Sigh.

I photographed some of the "end of summer" herbs and veggies growing at our house and around the neighborhood. You can see a lone Asian pear in our tree. When we went out to gather the fruit the other day, there was another couple happily picking them all. We asked if they could leave a few for us since it was our tree (we're living in the house and paying rent!) and they informed us the house's owner said they could pick the pears. They carted off all the reachable fruit, and that was that. We're not very argumentative and don't like to cause trouble with the neighbors, so we let it go. But we were a little sad.

Fennel drying in a neighbor's garden


  1. I love samosas, they look so awesome!

    I think I have everything I need for yourkasha dish, except for the mushrooms. It looks like a really nice dinner. Well, I think it has to be dinner.

    So many weird spam comments. I also get the funniest things.

  2. That's actually some GREAT Spam! I was getting 32 posts of gibberish (like sdhgjshbgjerbgejrbg) a night!

    We belonged to VoW for a year and could never make it to the dinners. They sound so fun and the food looked great. Maybe we'll have to try again even as non-members.

  3. Those spam comments are flippin' hilarious! Love the look of the buckwheat and noodle dish...must try it soon.

  4. Mmmmmm...I *love* Indian food! What a lovely looking meal you had. I hope the company was equally as enjoyable :-)

    You have an Asian pear tree?!?! SO jealous! They are sooooooo good. I hope you have a ladder so that you can get some of the higher up ones out of the tree. I am sorry those people just took your fruit...that seems very bold and rude if you ask me. I hope you get to enjoy some too!


  5. Mihl,
    We ate the kasha as a side dish with steamed broccoli and chickpea salad. It might need a few more ingredients to be a whole dinner!

    I get the gibberish, too, so the badly translated jokes are a nice change of pace. If it gets worse, I'll have to put back the "fill-in-the-word" thing.

    We often go to the dinners and the food quality depends on how well a particular cuisine holds up to "transport-and-keep-hot." (Some things are better eaten right away.) The people are interesting, though.

    The spam is weird, agreed.
    Not everyone puts as many noodles in kasha as I do but I really like pasta!

    I especially like Indian food when I know it wasn't made with ghee. The company was good!

    Yes, there's an Asian pear tree, but we didn't get many pears this year. :(

  6. All of the yummy looking food reminds me I haven't had Indian food in awhile. Shame on the neighbors, they could have at least shared a few Asian pears with you. How many can they eat? Some people...

  7. The Indian food looks so good - how I wish I could find vegetarian food like that here, too!

    And I love your version of the Kasha - I just used up all my buckwheat, but normally I'd always have the ingredients on hand. I might try it with some dried wild mushrooms, now that we're getting lots of them again... :-)

  8. You're so lucky your veg group gets catered! Ours is potlucked, and the food is, yikes, terrible, and it's not kid-friendly, so we've stopped going.

    I think that's terrible and snooty what your neighbors did your tree. If I were you, I'd ask your landlord if you guys could have the tree since it's on your property.

    Hilarious spam! Way to keep a positive attitude about it.

  9. Chow vegan,
    The "neighbors" did spare a few pears but they were at the top of the tree where they, and we, couldn't reach them.

    The food was good, and it didn't seem excessively greasy, which I really appreciated. I used up all our buckwheat, too, and sent my husband out for more, but all he could find was toasted groats, not raw. Sometimes I'm surprised by the difficulty of finding things here that were so easy to find in Wisconsin.

    Catering at the community center is good, but eating a catered meal at the actual restaurant like we did in Madison is even better, since the food doesn't have to sit around waiting for everyone to show up. Too bad about your potlucks — usually the food at potlucks is good! Maybe you should start your own group. I remember belonging to a not-kid-friendly group and it was weird. I tried to start a group but it never worked out.

    We won't be in this house when the pears ripen next year, so it's a moot point. (I don't even know where the "neighbors" live! They were vague about it.)

  10. Sounds like a fun night out! And Indian food is so great!

    Funny spam - the ones I get that bother me are when I CAN'T TELL if it's someone being nice and they just can't write English very well or if it's spam. :)

  11. That is some crazy spam! I have been getting lots of it lately too. What's the point? They get deleted anyway. And what's the point of leaving a spammy comment that doesn't link to anything? Is that stupid or am I missing something? I don't get it! Spammers need to find a more productive hobby!

    I'm a fall and winter person, but I understand your pain :)

    Thank you for the recipe and the food-history lesson! :)

  12. Jenny,
    It WAS a fun night out — we enjoyed both the food and the company.

    I was wondering if spammers get paid to deposit the spam, or when people follow the links. In any case, it's a real pain to have to worry about it. Nearly all of it goes to a spam folder, which is good, but it's still irksome.

    I don't know what the 3-D comment was about. Maybe he/she left it on the wrong blog by mistake. :)

  13. Thank you for the recipe, I was recently wanting to make something with kasha and had absolutely no idea where to start. You answered my kasha-prayer!

  14. Kris,
    Glad to be of help. Nothing like a warm bowl of kasha to ease a cold evening.:D

  15. All of that Indian food is making me seriously hungry. Samosas! Mmm.

  16. Mo,
    I know what you mean. Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. I could eat aloo gobi every night!

  17. Amazing it seems really nice and delicious....


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