Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Toasted Kasha Pilaf with Pancetta, Rapini, and Mushrooms
I made a great pasta once with pancetta (which is salt-cured, unsmoked pork belly) and rapini; the rich, meaty flavor of pancetta and the bitterness of the rapini really complement each other.
Recently I decided to make a whole grain version by adding these ingredients to kasha, which is a cereal comprised of buckwheat groats. It's commonly eaten in Eastern Europe; in fact, I had my first taste of kasha this summer at a birthday dinner at a Ukrainian restaurant. I found it had a really unique, complex, nutty flavor and I've also read it's healthy: it's gluten-free, high in fiber, and lowers your cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Here's the recipe:
2 cups uncooked kasha
4 cups boiling water or stock (I used chicken stock)
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp. butter
1 chopped onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used 16 oz., which was probably more than what it called for, but the mushrooms are great in this dish, so I think the more the better)
1 large bunch rapini
6 ounces pancetta, diced or cubed
2 tsp. smoked Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
First clean the rapini, trim the bottoms by about an inch, and then cut it into 2 inch pieces. Boil the rapini in a large pot for about 5 minutes, shock it with some cold water, then gently squeeze the liquid out so no unnecessary liquid will be added to the pilaf.
Next, dice the pancetta. I had a 6 ounce package of sliced pancetta. I would have preferred to cube a whole 6 oz. slab of pancetta, but it wasn't available. If you can find it, I think it would be better. I've also seen hot (spicy) pancetta, which is great, but if you use it, reduce the amount of cayenne pepper you add.
In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter until soft and a little browned. Once the mushrooms and onions are almost finished cooking, add the pancetta, allowing it to crisp up, and then the rapini. Stir in the paprika and cayenne pepper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the uncooked kasha with the beaten eggs. Stir until the kasha is coated in egg. In a large skillet over medium high heat, toast the kasha until the egg has dried and the grains are separated. Be careful not to burn the kasha--it's easy to do, just like nuts. Once the grains are toasted, quickly add the boiling water/stock and stir. Reduce heat to low. Cover tightly and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed.
Once the kasha is cooked, add the skillet of sauteed vegetables and pancetta and mix well. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and more cayenne pepper and paprika if you so choose.
This recipe makes about 8-10 generous servings, and you could easily halve the recipe.