A comforting grain bowl relies on a surprising technique for fluffiest kasha

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – This dish is grounding for me in multiple ways, offering an antidote to the frenetic world outside, if just for awhile. It transports me to the warm comfort of my Eastern European grandmother’s kitchen, where she would regularly toss kasha and browned onions with bow-tie pasta to make kasha varnishkes. The earthy essence of this meal-in-a-bowl is grounding in itself, with the deep nuttiness of the grain, peaty aroma of sauteed mushrooms, base note of onion and whisper of grassy herbs.

Topped with a runny-yolk egg, it’s a meal confidently centred on my path celebrating food that is both supremely nourishing and delicious.

Although you could use any number of different grains here (nutty-tasting bulgur, steel-cut oats or barley would work nicely, cooked as per their package directions,) it’s well worth picking up some kasha if you don’t have some in your pantry already. Kasha is roasted buckwheat which, despite its name, is not a type of wheat, but a gluten-free seed that cooks like a grain and is traditionally used like one.

Kasha’s toasty flavour and aroma are intense in the most enticing, memorable way. It’s a nutritional powerhouse, too – rich in protein, fibre, minerals and health-protective phytonutrients.

The instructions on the package of kasha I bought say to boil it, which is what my grandmother did, but after comparing that to the oven method suggested in Darra Goldstein’s wonderful book Beyond the North Wind, I was completely won over. Toasting the kasha in a skillet and then baking it in a casserole dish yields a much more flavourful and fluffy grain.

For this recipe, I employed the same skillet used to toast the kasha to then brown the onions and mushrooms and, finally, to cook the egg. All piled in a bowl with the egg on top, showered with dill and parsley, it’s a satisfying, modern meal with a firm tether to tradition.

KASHA GRAIN BOWL WITH MUSHROOMS, ONION AND EGG

Active time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 45 mins

Four Servings

This grain bowl pulls together traditional Eastern European flavours in a modern way. Its base is kasha, roasted buckwheat, which, despite its name, is not a type of wheat, but a gluten-free seed that cooks like a grain and is traditionally used like one. Buckwheat’s deeply toasty flavour and aroma are matched here with earthy, browned mushrooms and onions, then topped with a runny-yolk egg and sprinkled with fresh herbs for a satisfying and nutritious meal-in-a-bowl. (Bulgur, steel-cut oats or barley cooked according to the directions on their packages would work well as a substitute for the kasha.)

Make Ahead: The buckwheat can be made up to three days ahead. Storage Notes: Leftover buckwheat and the onion-mushroom mixture can be refrigerated, in separate airtight containers, for up to three days.

INGREDIENTS

One cup (6 3/4 ounces) kasha (coarse-cut, roasted buckwheat groats)

One tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the dish

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

Two cups boiling water

Two tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola

One large onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons

12 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Four large eggs

Two tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Two tablespoons chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS

Position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, toast the buckwheat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and darker brown, three to five minutes.

Lightly grease a one and a half quart covered casserole dish with butter. Add the toasted kasha and half teaspoon salt and stir to combine.

Pour the boiling water over and dot the top with the butter. Cover and place in the oven.

Bake until the liquid is absorbed; it should take from 20 to 35 minutes (start checking at the 20-minute mark and if there is still liquid, keep checking every five minutes). Fluff the buckwheat with a fork, then cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

While the buckwheat is baking, wipe out the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the softened and become lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms, the remaining quarter teaspoon of salt and the pepper and increase the heat to medium-high.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their water and it has evaporated, and the mushrooms and onions are nicely browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Return the pan to medium heat, add the eggs and cook them sunny-side-up, over-easy or however you like.

To serve, divide the kasha among four bowls. Top each with a quarter of the mushroom-onion mixture, place an egg on top, and then garnish with parsley and dill. If desired, season to taste with additional salt and pepper.