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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Pass The Buckwheat!

Buckwheat On The Hoof

Buckwheat On The Hoof

It’s not wheat at all, not even vaguely related to the grain, other than by its misnomer, nor is it even a grass.

Buckwheat Kernels

Buckwheat Kernels

Believed to have first been cultivated in China, buckwheat spread eastward to Japan, and westward to Russia and the Middle East, before eventually coming to Europe and the Americas.

The most familiar buckwheat dish in the United States is buckwheat pancakes, a perfect breakfast served simply au naturel or with a little maple syrup and butter.

Blini With Salmon Caviar

Blini With Salmon Caviar

One close relative is the authentic Russian blini made with buckwheat flour (perhaps mixed with wheat flour), delightful paired with caviar, particularly red (salmon) caviar or smoked salmon, and a dot of sour cream. (By the way, inauthentic blini, made with wheat flour alone, are not bad at all!)

Another is the French crepe, particularly popular in Brittany, and usually served with savory filllings like ham and cheese. Watch for the French word, sarrasin, on the menu for this treat. To read more, check out “A Crepe-s Salute to Bastille Day”  http://wp.me/p1VQOz-of .

Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri

A relatively obscure dish from Northern Italy is Pizzoccheri, buckwheat noodles, often cooked with Swiss chard or cabbage, potatoes and cheeses, Taleggio and/or Fontina and Parmesan. Recipes abound on line, each reflecting someone’s grandmother’s approach, all in varying degrees of deliciousness.

Dried Soba

Dried Soba

But, making buckwheat noodles is not easy, so myMEGusta suggests taking a shortcut by way of Japan, substituting dried Japanese soba noodles, broken into shorter pieces rather than in long strands.

Japanese soba is a myMEGusta favorite, whether hot in a soup or cold with a dipping sauce, perfect on a hot summer day. Both are traditionally served with garnishes, like wild mushrooms or tempura for hot soup or grated yam or nori seaweed for cold. In a really authentic setting, the waiter brings a pitcher of hot buckwheat broth at the end of a cold soba meal to mix with, and be sipped, with the remaining dipping sauce.

Cold Soba With Grated Yam and Dipping Sauce

Cold Soba With Grated Yam and Dipping Sauce

Hot Soba With Wild Mushrooms

Hot Soba With Wild Mushrooms

A favorite Manhattan destination for authentic Japanese soba is Soba Nippon, sister restaurant of Nippon, a few doors away, owned by a soba aficionado who has his own buckwheat farm in Montreal, Canada. The noodles are made twice daily at Nippon, losing nothing in the translation as they cross Fifth Avenue.

Buckwheat is a great gluten free food for people with Celiac disease, but read the label on any prepared food, or ask in a restaurant, as it could contain a mixture with regular wheat flour, as most soba noodles (including Soba Nippon) do.

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3 thoughts on “Pass The Buckwheat!

  1. Nancy on said:

    Hi Mary Ellen: Coincidentally, just last week I was searching for dried Japanese soba noodles and could not locate them. Any idea which grocer carries them locally?

  2. Interesting, I did not know about the Italian pasta connection with buckwheat. Kasha (Buckwheat kernels) is a popular Jewish accompaniment to meat. It is a little complicated to make. It should be first dry toasted in a heavy pot stirring constantly. After cooling one whole egg to one pound dry kasha is added and crumbled with your hands evenly. The idea is to cover the kernels as evenly as possible. Then liquid is added, about twice or a little more in volume as dry kasha. The liquid could be water or meat broth if served with meat. Kasha take about 1 hour slow simmer to get soft. Some cooks add a little fat with the liquid to keep the kernels separated. The result is a wonderful dish.

  3. Pingback: A Summertime Treat: Cold Asian Noodles | myMEGusta

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