Buckwheat is mostly unknown in the U.S., or at least in Southern states. Which is one of the most mysterious culinary facts for me. Since we are conscious about gluten tolerance and actively discover ancient grains, doesn’t this Eastern European delicacy deserve to trend worldwide?
Buckwheat is one of the healthiest ingredients. It makes the most delicious main and side dishes, when cooked properly. It’s available in bulk sections of supermarkets, sold either unroasted or roasted. Each form requires specific cooking methods and timing and can’t be substituted in recipes. Unroasted buckwheat grain is relatively soft. Even raw and dry, you can bite and easily crumble it with your teeth. It’s flavor is very subtle, and it makes a porridge when cooked with hot liquid. Good roasted buckwheat has darker tannish color and a very hard grain that doesn’t crumble. When cooked, it has fluffy texture and rich, earthy, and nutty taste.
I blame buckwheat unpopularity to unroasted grain. Because that’s what mostly available in supermarkets. Obviously, it is easy to find roasted buckwheat in special stores that sell Eastern European foods (see Recipe Notes below for Austin, TX), but is it fair for buckwheat? No, it is not. And Central Market agrees, because right now they have BOTH, unroasted and roasted buckwheat (labeled as kasha) available. (I do sound like secret CM’s agent, don’t I?)
Cooking roasted buckwheat is easy. You need 2 parts of liquid for 1 part of grain. Bring water to boiling, season with salt and sugar, lower heat to minimum, cover with lid, and set timer to 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat, add butter and cover with lid for another 5 minutes. Fluff and serve. Substitute water with chicken or vegetable stock for savory dishes, or with milk and cream plus sugar or honey for sweet variations. There are also many other ways to cook roasted buckwheat slower, with low heat, but those are minor improvements and extra bonuses. If you start with a high-quality grain, simple preparation is more than enough. 1 cup dry roasted grain with 2 cups water yields ~4 cups of cooked buckwheat kasha.
King Trumpet Mushrooms
We are far far away from the best wild European Boletus edulis mushrooms (aka Porcino in Italy or Borovik/Bilyi in Russia and Ukraine) needed for original, traditional recipe. Believe it or not, but the closest substitute in the U.S. are farmed King Trumpet (Pleurotus eryngii) mushrooms. They have almost the same texture because of their thick, meaty white stem similar to Porcino.
Caramelized Onions and Baby Bella Mushrooms
Buckwheat with Mushrooms
Don’t get me wrong, Portabello/Crimini/Baby Bella mushrooms can do a good job here. If you don’t care for specific taste or presentation, you can caramelize onions, fry sliced mushrooms, mix them with cooked buckwheat, and serve! The King Trumpet is the king though.
Measure roasted buckwheat. Check for any debris. Rinse with running water 1-2 time, to remove small crumbs. Do it quickly, do not soak the grain.
Add measured water, season, and bring to boiling on high heat. Reduce the heat to minimum, cover with lid, and cook on very low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, add 1 tbsp butter on top, cover with lid and let steam for another 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Check the taste. You might want to adjust it adding more salt or sugar, depending on your final dish and your taste. It is ready to serve now or it can be refrigerated when reaches room temperature.
Peel and dice onion. Caramelize it with 1 tbsp butter and combine with cooked buckwheat. It is ready to serve now or it can be refrigerated in closed container when room temperature.
Cook mushroom while buckwheat is being steamed. Slice small mushrooms 1/8" thin. Cut large mushrooms in half across, then slice 1/8" thin.
Place large skillet (12"D for 8-9 oz of mushrooms) on medium-high heat, melt clarified butter, and arrange 1 layer of mushroom slices. Season and fry them for 1-2 minutes, or until they brown on one side. Flip each slice, reduce the heat to medium-low, add stock, cover with lid, and cook until most of the stock is cooked down, for about 5 minutes.
If you cook more than 8-9 oz of mushrooms, do it one batch at a time, them combine all batches together to reheat for serving. Check seasoning and adjust it to your taste. They are ready to serve now or can be refrigerated in closed container when room temperature.
Buckwheat kasha and mushrooms can be cooked in advance. You can serve them mixed or with mushrooms on top of kasha. Reheat before serving.