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Kasha Varnishkes at Wolff's in New Jersey

Kasha Varnishkes"In 1925 Wolff Brothers of Paterson, New Jersey, published a Yiddish English cookbook with recipes culled from a kasha cooking contest run in all the Jewish newspapers throughout the country. "Recipes of thousands of Jewish dishes were sent us," they wrote modestly, "but we selected only the very best among them and these are listed here." The recipes included buckwheat blintzes, vegetarian buckwheat cutlets, and "a tasteful grits soup" made from their Health Food (merely unroasted buckwheat groats), green peas, and potatoes. The varnishke recipe was basically a kreplach-type noodle stuffed with kasha, buckwheat groats, and gribenes.

Packaged bow-tie noodles, large and small, quickly replaced the flat homemade egg noodles in the American version of kasha varnishkes. The trick to a good kasha varnishke is to toast the whole-grain buckwheat groat well over a high heat for 2 to 4 minutes until you start smelling the aroma of the kasha. This will seal the groats so that there is a nutty, crunchy taste to them, a good foil to the soft taste of the noodles. When I make mine - a favorite in my family - I add fresh parsley and sometimes coriander. Although traditionalists use bow-tie noodles for this, try rigatoni, shells, or any other kind of noodle you like." - Joan Nathan.

Recipe Ingredients:

2 large onions, sliced in rounds
2 to 3 tablespoons margarine or chicken fat
1 large egg or egg white, slightly beaten
1 cup medium or coarse kasha
2 cups water or bouillon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 pound large or small bow tie-shaped noodles
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (optional)

Cooking Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons of the margarine or chicken fat in a heavy frying pan with a cover until golden. Remove to a plate.
  2. Beat the egg in a small mixing bowl and stir in the kasha. Mix, making sure all the grains are coated. Put the kasha in the same frying pan, set over a high heat. Flatten, stir, and break up the egg-coated kasha with a fork or wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes or until the egg has dried on the kasha and the kernels brown and mostly separate.
  3. Add the water or bouillon, salt, and pepper to the frying pan and bring to a boil. Add the onions, cover tightly, and cook over low heat, steaming the kasha for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, stir, and quickly check to see if the kernels are tender and the liquid has been absorbed. If not, cover and continue steaming for 3 to 5 minutes more.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the bow-tie noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain.
  5. When the kasha is ready, combine with the noodles. Adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with the parsley and coriander. If desired, add a bit more margarine or chicken fat.

Makes 6 to 8 servings (M) with chicken fat/bouillon; (P) with margarine/water.

Recipe from: Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan.