Thursday, May 24, 2007

move over, quinoa

since the holiday foods of shavuoth are all dairy-based, i had to find something i could serve a guest who was vegan and had "gluten issues". apart from side dishes of vegetables, everything had eggs, milk, cheese, sour cream, etc. in it, not to mention flour.

i remembered i had something i wanted to try for a while which would be appropriate and figured it would be a good opportunity to make it. this vegetarian/vegan main dish, based on a recipe from joan nathan, worked out really well and was incredibly good even before i got it in the oven!

this delicious loaf is made from a mixture of buckwheat and some everyday vegetables and nuts. the recipe is really a mixture of "east meets west" as it includes ingredients like asian toasted sesame seed oil and japanese miso, both available with kosher certification. the semi-coarsely chopped nuts are there for texture and add a lot to the finished dish.

for those of you who have never used buckwheat groats before — or kasha, as it is also known — this is a good introduction. while it has never been my absolute favourite thing in the world, this may have converted me ;p i won't let that bias you, however. it is a wonderful earthy flavour which goes very well with the root vegetables used in the recipe.

kasha, or buckwheat groats, is considered to be a supreme grain, second only to quinoa, as it is a complete protein (11.7%) and is comprised of many amino acids. though not a true grain, it is commonly referred to as one. the plant itself is related to rhubarb and sorrel and produces triangular shaped seeds (groats).

buckwheat groats are available in several forms — the whole grain itself as used here (see link in ingredients for recipe), medium & fine grind and also powdered into a flour.
Common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is thought to have originated in central and western China from a wild Asian species Fagropyrum cymosum. It has been cultivated in China for over 1,000 years, and was brought to Europe during the Middle Ages. Buckwheat as well as other grain species accompanied the colonists to the New World.

The Scots coined the word "buckwheat" from two Anglo-Saxon terms, boc(beech) and whoet(wheat). The word beech was used since the fruit of the plant was similar to that of beechnut. It was called wheat because the grain of buckwheat was used in the same way as wheat. This term is somewhat ironic since buckwheat does not belong to the grass family and is not considered a "true" cereal.

World acreage of buckwheat has been as high as 5 million acres (2 million hectares). Producers include the former Soviet Union, China, Brazil, Poland, France, Japan, United States, South Africa and Australia. The former Soviet Union (54 per cent) and China (38 per cent) make up the largest percentage of world production.

In Canada, buckwheat production was approximately 150,000 acres (60,700 hectares) in the late 1970's and early 1980's but has since declined to 30,000 to 40,000 acres (12,000 - 16,000 hectares) annually. Manitoba is the major producer of buckwheat in Canada with 70 per cent of the acreage on average, followed by Quebec at 16 per cent and Ontario at 14 per cent. In Alberta, the annual acreage has been 500 acres (200 hectares) for a number of years. The Canadian 1993-95 yield average was approximately 21 bushels per acre; however, the long-term information from 1981-91 shows average yields closer to 16 bushels per acre.
to read the rest of the very short article from where this was excerpted, or to see pictures of the plant itself and where the groats come from, look here. who knew what a buckwheat plant looked like! also surprising [to me, at least] is that it's from china and japan; here i was thinking it was originally from russia all this time! [duhh, china is next to russia!] of course, i should have realized a connection since i love soba. interestingly, it is also used in india where it is called kutu or phaphra. these, however, are two differents species of the same plant: tatricum and esculentum, respectively.

traditionally, in the jewish ashkenazi kitchen, kasha is mixed with an egg and either placed in the oven to dry out or roasted in a skillet on the stovetop to keep the grain separate. for this recipe, the grains are roasted alone in a pan without any eggs. it is then cooked with a bit of water as the texture needs to be somewhat broken down to help keep the loaf together because there are no other binding ingredients in it.

a thoroughly easy-to-make recipe, i hope you like. i did :D

vegan & gluten free "kasha loaf"

this earthy flavoured vegetable and grain loaf is great along side a salad and a soup. it makes a nice light meal and can be eaten hot, cold or at room temperature.


3/4 c whole grain kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 1/4 c hot water

3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot coarsely grated to give 3/4 c

1 cup coarsely chopped roasted almonds or pecans

1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 c chopped italian parsely

1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 1/2 tbsp miso paste (any kind)
2 tbsp hot water

6 to 8 large lettuce leaves or 2 large belgian endives


note before starting that you need a bain marie to make this. the loaf pan will be placed in another pan filled part way with hot water while the kasha loaf bakes.

dry roast the kasha grains for about 5 to 7 minutes on medium high heat, stirring all the time until they are fragrant and a bit darker. you can also do this in the oven @ 350 F. though it may take a bit longer.

roast the nuts also and then let cool. once cool, coarsely chop and set aside.

place the heat on very low and in a pot with a lid, add the hot water to the kasha and stir. cover the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes, stirring a few times. some of the grains will break down and some will stay whole. these will cook further in the next steps. remove from the heat and keep covered.

in a fry pan, add the sesame seed oil and over medium heat saute the onion for about 4 to 5 minutes. add the ginger, garlic, carrot and celery and saute until softened, about 7 to 10 minutes. add the spices and cook another minute. remove from heat.

mix the miso with the 2 tbsp hot water in a small dish until smooth and then add it to the vegetable mixture. mix well.

add the parsley, nuts and kasha and stir really well. set aside to cool.

preheat the oven to 375 F.

wash and steam the lettuce or endive leaves until softened.

grease a regular sized loaf pan with oil and then line the pan with the steamed and softened leaves. this adds moisture while the loaf cooks, prevents it from sticking and makes remove extremely easy.

pack the mixture into the prepared loaf pan.

cover the loaf pan well with tin foil and then put it in the bain marie and bake it for 55 to 60 minutes.

remove from oven and let it cool about 15 minutes. unmold it onto a serving dish and serve in slices.



TopChamp said...

think I'll stick to meat...

Fudge pics are up but I'm not sure you're gonna like them. I found a better use for it though in the end.

TopChamp said...

ha ha - funny - it makes GREAT cupcake icing. Really gooey and tasty!

burekaboy — said...

TC - somehow i didn't quite imagine you being a hardcore vegetarian, LOL.

re fudge, it didn't firm up?? if so, u may have needed to add a bit more of the confectioner's/icing sugar. it looked fine; wouldn't have rolled into said shape if it didn't, i guess. you know, it's not exactly how i imagined my fudge turning out! LOL LOL LOL.

TopChamp said...

It firmed up nicely - until I put it in the oven. Then it turned into the nicest icing imaginable.

It's a great recipe, and will be perfect to make with the kids. It's straighforward to do, and just think of the fun they'll have shaping it!

burekaboy — said...

TC - i had to reread the first line of ur above comment; i'm thinking, "why in the world is she baking the fudge?!" now i see what u did. well, glad it turned out good for icing, too. i must say, i shall never forget u after this adventure. LOL :D

ByTheBay said...

This is great - I've been looking for something new to do with kasha! I love kasha varnishkes but that does sometimes get old. I'll have to give this a shot. As you can see on my blog, my challenge for Shavuot was not quite as hard but still called for creativity - My dad has high cholesterol so I had to make something lower fat and lower cholesterol than most cheesy Shavuot dishes. What I made turned out really well, fortunately.

burekaboy — said...

BTB - glad you like :) kasha varnishkes seem to be the real standard for using buckwheat. i actually REALLY liked the mixture before it was baked! LOL. [usually cooking with lower fat cheeses is disastrous for me. i just don't like how things taste or turn out. happy you had good results] :)