Buckwheat Three Ways – Part Two
In Which I Take A Recipe’s Skeleton, And Make Its Body My Own
In my last Buckwheat Three Ways post, I spent a fair portion of my blog kvetching about all the things I didn’t like about this recipe. Now, as I said before, I’m not dissing the recipe itself – it’s a great recipe, it really is – but it’s just not my taste. Making this recipe and trying to like it would be the same as dressing in leopard print and stirrup leggings every day – some people would probably be thrilled to do so, but I can’t say I’d ever be one of them. So, in the spirit of adventure and experimentation, I set about making up my own buckwheat casserole recipe.
This endeavor was fairly nerve-wracking at the start, more than I really expected it to be, which was sheer foolishness on my part. For all that I’m a cooking rule breaker, I’ve never sat down and tried to make up something all on my own. Yet I honestly thought it wouldn’t be that tough of a job. Ha, yeah right, and I could be a professional lion tamer ‘cause I’m really good with house cats. Truth of the matter is, creating a recipe of your own out of thin air, using nothing as your base, is a huge challenge. After several purely mental attempts to come up with my very own buckwheat casserole recipe felt flat (and that’s being generous), I decided that massive adaptations to the original Buckwheat and Cottage Cheese Casserole recipe by Lorna Sass would be just as good.
I decided to start with the most basic element of this dish – the whole concept of a casserole. A quick search online confirmed one of my initial reactions to the base recipe, which was that feeling that something (more things!) was missing. A casserole usually consists of pieces of meat or fish, various chopped vegetables, and some sort of starch (potato, pasta, or flour) that acts as a binder. Well I like meat, I love veggies, and the buckwheat is certainly the starchy binder, so all I really needed to do was add in vegetables and maybe some kind of meat and I’d have a real honest to goodness casserole. I kept several of the original ingredients and followed most if not all of the instructions, but just knowing that what I thought might be missing actually was missing made me feel tons better.
My almost-original recipe is included below, and I have to say that I’m really pleased with how my take on a savory casserole turned out. For all that I added more steps, more ingredients, and more time in the oven, it really wasn’t any more difficult to make than the original recipe. And I found multiple ways of adding additional layers of flavor to the over-all dish, such as toasting the buckwheat groats before adding the cooking liquid, substituting stock for plain water, and sautéing the carrots, leeks, and celery in the browned oil left after cooking the sausage. Perhaps one of my proudest “Ah-ha!” moments in this recipe happened in the grocery store when I noticed that tomatillos were on sale. Tomatillos are in the tomato family, but their flavor is almost citrusy, and their flesh is crisp, yielding to the bite with the same resistance as honeydew melon. They’re the “big brothers” to one of my favorite Farmer’s Market finds, the husk cherry, and loving the husk cherries like I do, I knew the tomatillos would add just the right brightness to the finished dish.
I hope you enjoy my Savory Buckwheat Casserole with Sausage & Veggies below, and if you end up making any adaptations of your own, I hope you’ll share them in the comments below! (Kara)
Buckwheat Three Ways is a three-part kitchen adventure series featuring Buckwheat, our December Grain of the Month. Be sure to tune in to Part Three coming a little later in the month!
Savory Buckwheat Casserole with Sausage & Veggies
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. fresh minced ginger
1 cup buckwheat groats
2 3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
4 all-natural chicken sausages
3 carrots, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 1/2 fat free cottage cheese
2 tomatillos, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter the bottom and sides of a 11" x 7" cake pan.
2. Sautee shallots, ginger, and garlic in 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Add buckwheat, stirring to coat all the groats in oil, combining all ingredients. Toast, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until buckwheat is very aromatic.
4. Add chicken stock, salt, black pepper, and paprika, then bring to a boil. Stir, cover, then reduce heat to low and simmer until buckwheat is tender, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
5. Return pan to stove, add remaining olive oil, then cook sausage over medium heat, turning occasionally, until done. Transfer sausages to a cutting board, let rest 5 minutes, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
6. Without cleaning the pan, return to heat and add carrots, leeks, and celery. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring occasionally, until carrots and leeks are tender, about 10 minutes.
7. Stir cottage cheese into buckwheat mixture, then add vegetables, sausage pieces, and tomatillos. Add beaten eggs and combine well.
8. Spoon mixture into cake pan, smooth the top, then bake for 60 - 70 minutes or until center is firm. Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes, then serve while still warm.