Courtesy Joan Knows Best
Courtesy Joan Knows Best
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The Enduring Delights of Kasha Varnishkes

Joan Knows Best: The best way to make this traditional Eastern European staple—with tips from chef Jake Cohen on how to update your grandmother’s recipe

Joan Nathan
July 07, 2021
Courtesy Joan Knows Best
Courtesy Joan Knows Best

Recently I showed my son David how to make his favorite dish: kasha varnishkes. I also shared with him some of the history behind the recipe.

Before the arrival of potatoes from the New World in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, cooked buckwheat groats—also called kasha—were the most popular food to fill hungry stomachs in Eastern Europe. The groats were used for breakfast as porridge, as flour in blini with smoked salmon and sour cream, or as a stuffing for knishes; they were also served with noodles (varnishkes) in the beloved peasant dish of kasha varnishkes, always cooked with lots of onions, and sometimes dressed up with wild mushrooms found in forests or in open air markets.

Today, at some Jewish holidays, I serve them as a side dish with pot roast. But I am also beginning to use buckwheat more as an everyday gluten-free ingredient as we explore more foods to replace meat and to sustain us in a different kind of future world of want. Highly nutritious, buckwheat is today considered a superfood, filled with protein, fiber, and energy.

The Recipe

Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha Varnishkes

Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.

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