◊ The Grain of My Ancestors

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Dear mom,

You sent your veggie chili recipe just in time.  We’ve experienced a blizzard over here in the Middle East. The roads are ice and yesterday’s white Jerusalem is melting gray. School has been cancelled since Thursday and my toes have been freezing-thawing-freezing-thawing since.

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And I’m getting antsy. You and dad see my life as exciting. It is. But my schpilkas syndrome isn’t always a positive thing. Right now I’m walled in by snow and slush and I’m about to freak out. The stillness. I can’t.

So I move.

I hop around to fill my life with beautiful views, weird produce, scraps of new languages and cultural mishaps at which I retrospectively laugh. My life is full and I’m glad that you appreciate its pieces. But sometimes I don’t know what I’ve really shared with you because I still feel a big old hole of empty. I think I’ll need to slow down if I want to figure out how to fill it.

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Once in 3rd grade I was walking from class to the carpool line and my teacher called me a turtle over the intercom. I left the building in tears and the name stuck. I was turtle… slow, slow, slow in all ways until one day I started to move fast. I don’t know when it happened… if it’s bad or good or neutral. But I think the compulsion that drives me to move fast stems from the same apprehension that held me in slowness. Careful and careless might be twins.

I risk losing me while I’m moving fast. Why do I write to you here? Because when I’m whipping across the globe at this pace it’s important that I stop to tell you what happened.

I don’t buy that you and dad’s lives would be boring without me. Between the two of you, you’ve built (from scratch) a farm with cows, a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and aquariums with tropical fish throughout Alabama; you’ve managed a 501C3, psychiatric wards, 70 person + dinner parties and god knows what else; you’ve sat in your very own office chairs, tractor seats and piano benches.

The things I’ve introduced you to  – like la hoja de coca and indigo fermentation – are superficially weird (exciting, eclectic, whatever). But you two are the real thing.

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You’re the ones.. the real weirdos… who inspire me to fill up.

xo

Shaina

My people’s grain:

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Israel’s recipes are infused with Mediterranean ingredients and Middle Eastern spices, but there’s still plenty of flavors that link me back to my Ashkenaz roots. As I think about my sense of self while hopping around at lighting speed, I am reminded that there’s no other food that speaks to my soul more than kasha. I can still smell the sticky fried onions and mushrooms that Bubbe made en mass to mix with kasha and farfel (like this recipe). It brings me back to me in an instant. Buckwheat: the grain of my ancestors.

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Below are three buckwheat-based recipes inspired by my current place and purpose.

Sweet Buckwheat Porridge, Raw:

Adapted from my new favorite recipe blog, GreenKitchenStories.com

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  • A portable post-swim snack

    A portable post-swim snack

    1 C raw buckwheat groats + water for soaking

  • 1 C raw almond + water for soaking
  • 4 dates + water for soaking
  • 1pear
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • chopped apricots
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or ground vanilla

Soak RAW (much of the buckwheat you find in stores is Kasha, which is roasted) groats, almonds and dates in water seperately for 4 – 7 hours or overnight.

In the morning, add all ingredients to a food processor (I used a stick blender) and blend until smooth.

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Topping treats! I garnished my first serving with pomegranate seeds, chopped apples and persimmons, pumpkin seeds and drizzles of tahini and date syrup. It was luxurious. I also recommend any fresh fruit you have on hand, raisins, cocoa powder, date syrup, coconut flakes, honey, almond butter or your own favorite indulgences.

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It’s also perfect for a breakfast-to-go or in-between class snack.

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Israeli Buckwheat Salad:

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  • 2 cups roasted buckwheat groats (Kasha)IMG_0795
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 orange, red and/or yellow bell peppers, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced into slivered chunks
  • red onion, thinly diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbs crude tahini
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs ground sumac (or lemon zest)
  • 1 large bunch of parsley
  • 2 ripe avocados

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Bring water and salt to boil and add buckwheat. Simmer for 10 – 12 minutes until tender and fluffy. Remove from heat and allow buckwheat to cool for an additional 5 minutes. Then drain any extra water and spread onto baking sheet or large surface to prevent clumps.

Dice all of the vegetables very thinly. If you have other veggies in the fridge you need to get rid of, this is your moment.

In a saucpan, heat olive oil and add turmeric, cumin and coriander. Stir for 1 – 2 minutes until fragrant. Pour mixture into bowl and add tahini, vinegar and sumac. Stir well.

Toss buckwheat, veggies and dressing right before serving. Top with chopped parsley and avocado. Serve cool or room temperature.

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Orange Glazed Tempeh over Soba Noodles with Avocado:

Tempeh preparation is adapted from 101cookbooks.com

Yes, Soba Noodles are made from buckwheat!

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  • 1 package (12 oz) dried soba noodles (I like to use 100% buckwheat, but they can be hard to find and expensive. More common is a buckwheat + spelt or wheat combination.)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup, date syrup or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 ounces of tempeh (or tofu)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • cilantro to garnish

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Cook the soba noodles in well salted water, drain, rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Mix orange juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, ground coriander, and garlic in a bowl and set aside.

Cut tempeh into thin slices. Heat olive oil in pan. Once hot, add tempeh and pan-fry for 5 – 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. Pour the orange juice, etc mixture over the tempeh and simmer for 10-15 minutes (flip tempeh piece 3 or 4 times during this time to allow all sides to absorb sauce) until sauce becomes thick and sticky.

Place tempeh over soba noodles and top with remaining sauce, black sesame seeds, squeeze of lime, cilantro and avocado.

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