While waiting for the warmth of spring, warm up the kitchen with the toasty flavor of buckwheat.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MEGAN GORDON
It’s that time of year when we feel like the seasons are turning, and yet we have a little ways to go, don’t we? Right about now, I begin dreaming of airy lemon desserts and all the dinners we’ll make on the grill, and then my husband, Sam, reminds me to rein it in and get realistic: Warmer weather always takes longer than we think to truly descend on the Pacific Northwest.
So lately, we’ve been relying on year-round comfort food with some seasonal twists (early season berries at the grocery store or fresh leeks peeking out from farmers market stands), and I want to share a few recipes in our rotation with you, each using one of my favorite grains: buckwheat.
Despite its slightly misleading name, buckwheat isn’t a wheat at all; it’s a gluten-free plant similar to rhubarb. You can use buckwheat a few different ways in the kitchen: The beautiful grayish-purple flour is wonderful paired with jammy fruits, chocolate, or nuts.
Before they’re ground into flour, the triangular seeds (known as groats) are hearty and chewy and work well in salads, soups, peasant-style breakfast dishes, and even desserts. When you go shopping for buckwheat groats, you’ll have two choices: the pale-green groats or the brownish, roasted groats, often called kasha, which I like better for their nutty, earthy flavor. Shop in the bulk bins so you can try a bit of each to see which you prefer, and then use that: It’s your (almost springtime) kitchen, after all.
Buckwheat Crepes with Honeyed Ricotta and Roasted Strawberries
There are dozens of sweet or savory fillings to scheme and dream about when you’re working with crepes at home. And while spring fruits always have me veering to the sweet side of things, I love a filling that relies on the flavor of the fruit (and a little honey) rather than loads of added sugar. Leftover roasted berries are great on top of oatmeal or yogurt — or all on their own with a little whipped cream; sometimes I double the batch for that reason alone.
For the Roasted Berries
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons runny honey, plus more for assembling
- pinch kosher salt
For the Crepes
- 1/2 cup (65g) buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup (60g) allpurpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
- 2 large eggs
For the Honeyed Ricotta
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
To roast the berries: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the berries with the oil, honey, and salt. Place on the baking sheet and roast until they’re juicy and fragrant, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
To make the crepes: Whisk the flours, salt, milk, buttermilk, butter, and eggs in a large bowl until very smooth (alternatively, you can blend the ingredients in a blender instead). Let the batter sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature and up to 1 day in the refrigerator.
Rub a small dab of butter (1/2 tablespoon or so) onto the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch nonstick crepe or sauté pan, over medium heat, and wait until the butter melts completely. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the hot pan and tilt it in a circular motion to ensure the batter spreads out into an even layer. Cook over low heat until the edges start to pull away from the pan, about 2 minutes. Using a non-stick spatula, carefully flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 minute. Lay the crepe on a large plate and repeat until you’ve gone through all of the batter. It’s OK to stack the crepes on a heat-proof plate. If the crepe pan starts to get too dry, add another little bit of butter. Keep the finished, unfilled crepes warm in a 200°F oven until ready to assemble.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, honey and vanilla until smooth.
To assemble, lay each crepe flat on a plate and spoon a generous dollop of honeyed ricotta and roasted berries in each. Drizzle extra honey atop each one if desired. Enjoy the crepes immediately, open-faced or folded into quarters.
Stir-Fried Breakfast Buckwheat with Bacon and Scallions
Much like rice, buckwheat can get very sticky when cooked, so I use an old-fashioned trick here that my husband learned during his travels in Poland: Coat the grains with egg before cooking them, to create a bit of a seal. The result is a perfectly chewy, flavor-packed stir fry that’s the definition of comfort food around here.
- 5 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
- 1 cup roasted buckwheat groats, rinsed
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 4 scallions, white and light-green parts, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup), plus more to top
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, shredded
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (regular or reduced-sodium)
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, to top
- Sriracha sauce, to top (optional)
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp, 5–7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain the grease from the skillet, and discard. Set aside the skillet to use later.
Pour the buckwheat groats into a large bowl and add 3 tablespoons of the beaten-eggs mixture, mixing until the groats are well-coated.
Heat a large, dry saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the coated groats and stir over the heat for 2 minutes to set the egg.
Pour the broth into the saucepan and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the groats are tender.
Spread the cooked buckwheat onto a large rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool for 15 minutes (this helps ensure that the grains don’t get clumpy).
Add the sesame oil to the same skillet you cooked the bacon in, and over medium heat, add the scallions, ginger, and garlic and fry for 1 minute. Add the carrots, celery, soy sauce, and vinegar, and stir fry for 2 minutes.
Add the cooked buckwheat, cooked bacon, and remaining egg mixture and stir fry for 1 additional minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding additional soy sauce or Sriracha if you’d like. Fold in chopped parsley and serve hot, topped with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.
Megan Gordon is a food writer, recipe developer, culinary educator, and author of Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons. She writes regularly for magazines and websites including The Kitchn and Recipe.com, as well as on her own blog, A Sweet Spoonful. When not writing about food, Megan teaches cooking classes and consults with small food businesses and brands.