Buckwheat: Delicious, Easy, and Gluten Free

As I’ve cut back on rice (and I promise you, this has been hard!), I’ve been looking at other options for my lunches. Since I got my pressure cooker, beans, especially black and garbanzo beans, have been on the menu. It’s really easy to cook up a batch on Sunday afternoon for lunches and to add to meals during the week.
But what has really captured my tastebuds is buckwheat. In the same amount of time it takes to make stovetop rice, you can cook up buckwheat groats. They have a nice chew and amazing flavor — earthy and warm. As an added bonus, they are super-versatile.

If you’ve never had buckwheat, you’re not alone. A quick office poll revealed I was the only one who’d ever cooked and/or eaten them. Granted, this was a tiny sampling of a dozen people, but I suspect this is fairly normal for the population as a whole. I have decided to change this statistic one person at a time (and if you’ve ever had soba noodles, you have enjoyed buckwheat in one of its many forms!)
Despite its name, buckwheat is NOT wheat. It is completely, safely gluten free. The seeds are considered a pseudocereal, and the plant is related to sorrel and rhubarb. In addition to being enjoyed as a whole grain, buckwheat also makes a great flour — many crepe recipes include buckwheat flour (and, sigh, wheat flour).
I grabbed my first bag of whole buckwheat, also known as kasha, on impulse — I’d been wanting to try it, but didn’t have a plan. The owner of my local meat market, which also sells an amazing array of Armenian specialty foods, was thrilled I’d grabbed the buckwheat. He immediately rattled off a recipe that seemed both delicious and intimidating. I let the bag sit for a couple of months while I worked up the courage to ask him to repeat the recipe since I’d missed a good number of ingredients.
Finally, I decided it was time to tackle the buckwheat. Imagine my surprise when I learned it only needed about 20 minutes on the stove, though, as I’ve been making batches nearly every week since, I find it takes about 12 – 15 minutes at a good simmer in salted water for a perfect bite.
Here are a few of the ways I’ve enjoyed my buckwheat groats:
  • Tossed into my lunch alongside meats, cooked greens, and a little rice (old habits die hard!). Top with a little sauce, and you have a meal.
  • Tossed into salads. My composed salad with kale, strawberries, and buckwheat is just one example. I’ve also made a great salad with roasted grapes (roasting brings out the sweetness while adding extra flavor) and buckwheat — use lettuce or kale, depending on what you have.
  • As a side dish. Warm buckwheat absorbs dressings readily. I like a lemony vinaigrette, but also loved it with a pomegranate vinaigrette…along with a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds.
  • As a breakfast porridge. This recipe with bananas and almond milk is just one example.  Mix in other fruits (dried or fresh) or nuts for more flavor. My husband has had this instead of oatmeal before a run. It sustained him through many miles.
  • Plain, from the pan. Because I am an adult and I am allowed to do stuff like this. Plus, I can’t resist a spoonful while the groats are still warm.

Tip of the Week

To add a nutty flavor to your buckwheat, toast it before cooking. Place in a saucepan — no oil — over medium-high heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently. The groats will grow darker and smell amazing. Don’t let them burn!
Menu of the Week
There are so many great ways to enjoy buckwheat, but here’s a special breakfast, brunch, or any time recipe from Phoebe Lapine of Feed Me Phoebe.
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