Buckwheat and Pasta? Yes Please!

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I hate the cold. This probably comes as no surprise to anyone who “heard” me whining on social media during the recent frigid temperatures. And it’s probably not an uncommon sentiment–but for me it goes a bit deeper. I suffer from Raynaud’s disease, a condition where small blood vessels in my hands and feet constrict too much in reaction to cold and take a very long time to relax again. What this basically means is that, if I get cold, I can get frostbite a lot easier than people without Raynaud’s. Let me tell you, black toes? Not pretty.

You can imagine my delight when, in a lecture for school, I learned that eating buckwheat groats can improve circulation thanks to their magnesium content. I promptly got myself a jar at the local co-op and went about learning to cook them as breakfast cereal.

Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. They came out mushy and flavorless, plus my body burned through them in a whole lot less time than it does with oatmeal, leaving me hungry and shaky long before my morning snack. (Obviously, I did something wrong in the cooking process!)

Not willing to give up the possibility of helping myself with food, I tried another recipe–this time for dinner. Say hello to Kasha Varniskes.

kasha varnishkes pot

Technically, it’s supposed to be made with bowtie pasta, but lacking that, I cooked up some whole wheat penne as the basis for this unique dish. I found recipes for it in both the Forks Over Knives cookbook and Appetite for Reduction. I wound up choosing the FoK recipe, which included a bit of dill in the ingredients list (as I am a total sucker for dill). Overall, the recipe is almost ridiculously simple–in a good way. It only has six ingredients, including mushrooms and onions, and takes about as long to make as the pasta takes to cook.  So it works out pretty well if you need a quick weeknight dinner or, if you’re like me, enjoy trying seemingly oddball combinations of food.

kasha varnishkes served

This is one of those dishes that definitely seems odd until you put it in your mouth.  Wow!  What a difference a few seasonings make.  Instead of a bowl of tacky, bland groats, this results in a mix of flavors and textures that make it hard to stop eating.  Toasting the buckwheat beforehand (I bought raw groats) filled the house with a delicious roasty smell, and it imparted a similar overtone to the finished dish. All it needed was a little extra dill to be perfect.  A few more mushrooms wouldn’t go amiss, either–they really added to the texture.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of buckwheat groats now.  I’ve tried them in other dinner dishes, including one with roasted sweet potatoes and peas from the talented and amazing Robin Robertson, and am glad that I gave them another chance after the breakfast debacle.  I don’t think I’d eat them in the morning again unless I went for something savory, but for lunch or dinner?  Bring it on.

One thing I can’t say for sure is if they do in fact help my circulation when I eat them.  I haven’t seen much of an effect, but then again, it’s hard to notice when you’re busy mainlining an amazingly tasty dish that brings together the slightly “al dente” feel of properly cooked buckwheat groats, the comforting taste of pasta and the chewy texture of mushrooms.

And frankly, now that I know how to cook buckwheat groats so that I don’t just like them, but love them…I’m not sure I care if they make me warmer or not!

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About the Author:

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a member of Toastmasters International and currently serves as part of the Capital View Toastmasters club. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, play silly card games and knit socks.
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