Jew-ish Jew-ish by Jake Cohen

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 40 Minutes  

I discovered this Ashkenazi side in New York’s Murray Hill neighborhood when my husband and I would make our weekly visit to Sarge’s Delicatessen for a bowl of matzo ball soup. Made with kasha (cooked buckwheat groats) and bow-tie pasta and flavored with caramelized onions and tons of butter, kasha varnishkes tastes like a big bowl of pasta had a Jewish lovechild with a grain bowl. I became obsessed with the chewy texture of whole buckwheat groats and started stocking my pantry with the Eastern European staple (you can find it in many supermarkets and it’s easily available online). To liven things up, I transformed the side dish into a weeknight pasta that I serve as the main attraction more often than not.

While you may think the secret to this recipe is that I throw in tons of mushrooms and onions caramelized in butter, which definitely doesn’t hurt, but the real magic is simmering the kasha in chicken stock. I keep things brothy so the buckwheat is tender before it has absorbed all the liquid. This allows the al dente pasta to suck up the rest of the stock as it finishes cooking, adding more flavor while also coating the noodles in a glossy sauce. Finished with lemon and herbs to brighten up this rich pot of carbs, it’s the flashiest kasha varnishkes you’ll ever make.

 Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms (such as maitake, oyster, or beech), roughly torn

  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup kasha (toasted whole buckwheat groats)

  • 3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

  • 16 ounces dried farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1.     Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cover and keep at a gentle bubble until you are ready to cook the pasta.

2.     In a medium Dutch oven or pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, and a heavy pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms and onions are softened and caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

3.     Add the kasha to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring continuously, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and a heavy pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the kasha is tender but has not absorbed all the liquid, about 10 minutes.

4.     Meanwhile, bring the pot of water back to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes, then drain.

5.     Add the mushroom mixture and the pasta to the pot with the buckwheat. Cook for 2 minutes to incorporate the flavors.

6.     Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, dill, and lemon zest and juice. Stir until well combined, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Let stand for 2 minutes to soak up any remaining liquid, then give everything one last toss and serve.

Excerpted from JEW-ISH: A COOKBOOK: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch © 2021 by Jake Cohen. Photography © 2021 by Matt Taylor-Gross. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.