Saturday, July 5, 2014

Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha) and Easy Saucy Carrots

Buckwheat or kasha is a popular grain used in Polish cooking. It was first cultivated in the Balkan region of Europe circa 4000 B.C. The most traditional way of making kasha is to serve it with mushroom gravy. I chose not to make a mushroom gravy this time because the Saucy Carrots - ha! ha! - I am making along with kasha are enough. There is no need for additional sauciness.

Carrots are a lovely vegetable that are a staple in Polish cooking. They are cheap and nutritious. Moreover and in my humble opinion, carrots should be a base to any meal, in addition to onion and garlic of course.

My mom is a carrot enthusiast and she adds tons of carrots in any meal she makes. This is her secret way to make my brother eat vegetables. It works and he has no clue in spite of his intelligence. Sorry brother. I had to go there.

Mom told me about her favorite way to make carrots which  is to cook them in a flavorful broth. I used a mushroom bouillon cube to flavor the carrots, but you can use any vegan bouillon cube or broth you fancy.

Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha) and Easy Saucy Carrots 
Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha)

1-2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 medium sized portabella mushrooms, roughly chopped (with gills)
1 (15-oz can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed (any 15-oz can of cooked beans may be substituted)
1 and 1/2 cups roasted buckwheat (also known as kasha)
Freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon marjoram
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried dill
3 cups mushroom broth or 3 cups water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a large pan, in oil, over a medium heat, for about 10 minutes. Add all the spices while sautéing these vegetables.

Now add the buckwheat and mushroom broth or 3 cups of water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube. Stir, cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until all the broth is absorbed and the buckwheat is fluffy. This should take about 15-16 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the buckwheat. Turn off the heat, stir in the chickpeas, and taste for additional seasonings.  Serve with a side of Saucy Carrots.
Easy Saucy Carrots
Easy Saucy Carrots 

6 large carrots, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mushroom broth or water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube (enough to cover the carrots)
1-2 teaspoons corn starch

Before we begin, a few words about boiling carrots. There are few tricks that help to keep the carrots' nutrients while boiling.

First, leaving the skin on helps the carrots retain nutrients. I buy organic carrots, and I am comfortable leaving the skin on. If you can't do that, be sure to peel your carrots carefully so that only a thin layer of skin is peeled. No double peeling per side.

Second, when chopping the carrots, be sure to cut them in a bigger size rather than smaller pieces. This helps with keeping the nutrients as well.

Lastly, cover the carrots with barely enough liquid. Use this liquid at the end of cooking time as the sauce base. That way, nothing gets wasted and the nutrients are preserved.

Let's make Saucy Carrots! Ha ha! Start making this dish at the same time you are preparing the Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha) and also during the time you are sautéing the onion and mushrooms.

In a medium pot, add the chopped carrots, and cover the carrots with mushroom broth (or water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube). Do not add too much liquid, you need enough to cover the carrots, but do not submerge them completely. Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the carrots are soft, but not mushy. The cooking time will depend on the amount of the carrots. This can range between 20 to 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat, season with salt and stir. Remove about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid from the carrots into a bowl and whisk in 1 teaspoon of corn starch. Add this cooking liquid with corn starch back into the carrots and stir. It will thicken and make a nice sauce. Add another teaspoon of cornstarch, following the same directions, if the sauce is too thin. The sauce takes about a minute or so to thicken.

That's it! Let's eat.
Perfect match! I added additional dried dill on both for garnish. 
Store both dishes in the refrigerator, in separate and tightly closed containers, for up to a week.

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