Monday, October 15, 2012

Kasha Varnishkes Soup for National Mushroom Day

I'm a mushroom lover with a history of being surrounded by mushroom haters. Jeremy has only just found affection for them; of course, even he chuckles that his new enjoyment is for morels and truffles, among the most expensive varieties available! And I used to go out with someone who would only eat small amounts of the little white button mushrooms, nothing with more flavor ... groan.

So when Craig told me that he loves "chopped liver and a good mushroom barley soup," I was just tickled. A little bit of "meh" on the former, but I'm very happy about the latter. There's a lot to be said for going out with a nice Jewish boy whose level of observance is far less than my own weird hybrid of practice, but who at least knows and enjoys the requisite foods!

That is, until I found out that Craig only likes raw mushrooms. While he promised to try the soup if I made one, and even sounded enthusiastic about it, he also presumed he would pick out the mushrooms and generously donate them to my own bowl ... aaauuuggghhh!!!

But I was determined to cook a version of mushroom soup in honor of today's "holiday," National Mushroom Day. You know me, though - I can't just leave things alone. There are lots of recipes for good ol'-fashioned mushroom barley soup, so that simply had to be tinkered with.

I thought of another classic Jewish dish, Kasha Varnishkes: buckwheat groats that are cooked in broth and traditionally served with bow tie pasta and, sometimes, mushroom gravy. While buckwheat is not actually a grain, it is reminiscent of one; so it seemed reasonable to substitute it for barley in a mushroom soup.

So I cooked up the kasha, added lots of mushrooms, added extra liquid beyond what the buckwheat would absorb, and added pasta ... and there it was, Kasha Varnishkes Soup! A little beer added some depth to the flavor. This is perfect for a cold, fall day.

Kasha Varnishkes Soup

Please note that this is not kosher, since it mixes butter and beef broth. (Butter has better flavor than any of its substitutes.) You can make whatever accommodations suit your fancy - oil or margarine, using only vegetable broth, etc. - to honor the dietary laws.

  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 ounces white button mushrooms, halved, sliced
  • 10 ounces baby Portabella mushrooms, halved, sliced
  • 1 cup beer
  • 16 ounces vegetable broth
  • 16 ounces beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • generous sprinkling freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • splash of soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups bow-tie pasta, pre-cooked
  • sour cream for serving, optional

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan, and cook the onion over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized. Remove onions from saucepan and reserve.

Combine kasha and egg white until kasha is thoroughly coated; add to saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes until the kasha is toasty and has separated into individual grains.

Add the remaining butter to the saucepan; add the onions and both kinds of mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have softened. Add the beer, both broths, salt, pepper, sugar, and soy sauce; bring to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pasta and cook 5 more minutes.

Serve hot, with sour cream if desired.

Serves 6-8.


Cranberry Morning said...

Okay, Mary, I can't exactly say that I'm going to rush out and get the ingredients for this (especially to make the liver variety), but I'm with you on the side of mushrooms. Kevin says they taste like dirt. What's the matter with him??? I love them! This is quite an exotic recipe, and I love the name. :-)

Candace said...

Mushrooms are awesome!

Judee @ Gluten Free A-Z said...

I'm a recent mushroom convert. I like mushrooms best raw or sauteed in butter. Your soup is nothing short of genius! I love it, am pinning it, and can't wait to try it!!

Carla said...

I love mushrooms!! :)

Carla said...

P.S. Mary,
How about the Tigers. :)

Yenta Mary said...

Oh, I'm in my baseball loving glory right now! I grew up in NY, watching the Yankees; I've lived in Michigan for 34 years, and have adopted the Tigers. I'm happy regardless of who wins the series and moves on! I've gotten to see them both have success in the post-season, and with exciting games, extra innings, and full 5-game series. But, truth be told, I have to say I'm wishing it more for the Tigers - it means so, so much to everyone here. In NY, they take success for granted and demand it; in Detroit, there is enormous pride in Cabrera, Verlander, and the rest of the boys, with genuine appreciation ....

Ghosts of Postings Past and Present

Looking for Something ...?