Buckwheat is very popular in Ukrainian cuisine as well as in Japanese, Jewish and others, but not particularly in North America, where it’s used mainly as flour for pancakes.
This “grain” (which is technically classified a fruit) is chock full of goodness and very low in calories. It’s an excellent source of protein, trace minerals, fiber, amino acids, and vitamins, including the entire B spectrum.
So it’s worth acquiring a taste for it!
Actually, it’s not all that hard to do. Buckwheat, once roasted, has a lovely nutty flavor and is wonderfully filling.
You definitely want roasted when you're cooking with it. You can buy roasted buckwheat in most health food stores and East European delis. (Some supermarkets carry buckwheat but it’s usually not roasted.) If you can't find it locally you can always get it by mail-order.
Ukrainian Food Flair’s Sylvia Molnar shared an super-healthy (and super-delicious) recipe using buckwheat on her return to the airwaves on May 8, 2011. It’s a hearty and yummy sauerkraut soup with buckwheat that she calls simply, “kapusniak” (капусняк).
Kapusniak is actually is a generic Ukrainian term for a soup made with sauerkraut … much like borsch (борщ) is a generic term for a vegetable soup (usually) made with beets. The Ukrainian word for both cabbage and sauerkraut is “kapusta” … hence the name. (The word for beet is “buryak” (буряк).
Both borsch and kapusniak are wildly popular with Ukrainians, most likely because Ukrainians tend to favour tartness in their soups.
Whether you’re a new cook, new to Ukrainian cuisine, or a seasoned veteran of Ukrainian cooking, I hope you’ll try Sylvia’s recipe and let us know how it turned out for you!
Kapusniak: Sauerkraut Soup with Buckwheat
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 cups lean meat stock
1 lb (16 oz) sauerkraut (for a milder taste, rinse in cold water, squeeze)
1 tsp ground pepper (or to taste)
2 cups cooked buckwheat
Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add the stock, sauerkraut, and pepper.
Bring soup to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cooked buckwheat. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
That’s it! So try it, it’s Ukrainian!
To cook buckwheat, bring 3 cups water to a boil, add ½ tsp salt and stir in 1 cup roasted buckwheat. Bring to a boil again, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Makes 4 cups.