Courtesy Judith Hausman
The zucchini just keeps on coming, so this week, I’m using it in a wonderful salad with kasha, herbs and a light lemon-oil dressing. Kasha is buckwheat groats, popular in Russian and Balkan cuisine, and contrary to the name, not wheat at all. I love the nutty taste and rough texture of kasha, which contrast so nicely with the silky summer squash. Make the kasha well in advance if you like, and mix it with the zucchini in the proportions you prefer (more squash or more grain) just before serving.
What drew me to try this recipe was that you don’t cook the zucchini, but instead soften it by salting and draining it, much as you would treat an eggplant before further cooking it. The makes the squash palatable, but it still holds its firmness. Some of the salt does linger in the sliced squash, so you shouldn’t add any more to the dish.
There are other interesting additions possible, though. I used mint and basil, but dill, chive or fennel would be delicious seasoning, too. Thinly sliced bell peppers, fennel bulb, halved cherry tomatoes, asparagus, radishes, olives, anchovies, grated carrot and fresh peas are all good additions.
If you chop the squash smaller, add some sautéed mushrooms and use the mix to fill puff pastry squares, you’d have a knish to serve as a main course. If you add a half pound of cooked bowtie pasta and warm up the whole mix, you’d have a nutritionally improved kasha varnishkes on your table. These are both traditional kasha dishes.
Yield: 4 servings
- 3 scallions or 1 small red onion, chopped and divided
- 1 tsp. butter or oil
- 1 cup buckwheat groats
- 2 cups chicken or vegetarian broth
- 2 cups zucchini or summer squash slices
- 2 T. kosher salt
- 1 purple scallion or 1/2 small red onion, chopped
- 1 small red, purple or yellow bell pepper, sliced (optional)
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup mint and basil, chopped
- hot pepper flakes, to taste
In saucepan, slightly brown 1/2 onion or two scallions in butter or oil. Add buckwheat and toast briefly before adding broth. Bring broth to boil, then immediately turn down to simmer and cover. Cook 15 to 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork and re-cover for about 15 minutes. If you have more kasha than you need for the salad, reserve leftovers for another use.
Put squash slices in colander and salt moderately. Let drain for 30 minutes to 1 hour, rinse well and pat dry. Mix the slices with whatever amount of kasha you prefer and any other vegetables.
Mix dressing ingredients, and toss lightly with kasha and vegetables.