If you’re having trouble fitting a whole grain into your busy schedule, I have a suggestion for you: Pick up a package of Wolff’s kasha. It can be used pretty much anywhere you’d use rice, quinoa, or millet, it cooks up faster than any of them, and best of all, it’s safe for your gluten-free loved ones.
So what is kasha? Here in the U.S., it’s the term for roasted buckwheat groats (in Slavic countries, it means porridge in general). Buckwheat, which has a nutritional profile similar to wheat, is not really a true grain at all but the seed of a plant related to rhubarb. It’s one of the oldest and most traditional foods in Russia. To become kasha, the black, inedible outer hull is removed, and the buckwheat is roasted. You can buy it either whole or granulated, and though both forms cook quickly, the granulated is slightly faster-cooking, for those of us who put off preparing dinner until the last minute.
I decided to do something a little nontraditional with my medium-grain kasha and used it instead of bulgur wheat in a salad called kisir, the Turkish form of tabouli. But then I had trouble. I couldn’t find the Turkish hot pepper paste that most kisir recipes call for, so I used Sambal Oelek chili paste instead. And though I was eager to use my pomegranate molasses in the dressing, when I took it from the refrigerator door, I found it had turned into a pomegranate rock and I had to use agave nectar instead.
Despite these substitutions, this salad turned out to be one of my favorites. The kasha has a stronger flavor than bulgur or quinoa, deep, nutty, and somehow earthy, but it blended well with the aggressive flavors of the hot pepper paste, mint, and green onions. Since I like things spicy, I used two teaspoons of chili paste, but if you’re not a heat lover, try it with less. Or check out my similar International Quinoa Salad, which is milder and could always be made with kasha.
Spicy Kasha Vegetable Salad
- 1 cup buckwheat kasha , medium granulation
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 medium tomatoes , chopped fine
- 1/2 cup green onions , thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup parsley , chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint , chopped
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 large cucumber peeled , seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or pomegranate molasses) or other sweetener to taste
- 1-3 teaspoons hot pepper paste or sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon water
- Heat 2 cups of vegetable broth (or heat water and add vegetable bouillon). While you’re waiting for it to come to a boil, toast the kasha in a large, dry saucepan for about 3 minutes, or until it releases a nutty aroma. When the broth reaches a boil, add it carefully to the kasha (watch out for spatters!) Cover and turn the heat very low. Cook until kasha is tender and all liquid is absorbed, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff, and allow to cool. Kasha can be refrigerated and stored overnight, if necessary.
- Add all chopped vegetables and the chickpeas to the kasha. Mix the lemon juice and remaining ingredients well and add them to the kasha, stirring so that the dressing is distributed evenly. Serve mounded in the center of a large platter, with butternut lettuce leaves. To eat, spoon some of the salad into a lettuce leaf and eat like a taco or burrito.
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