Friday, February 23, 2007

Broccoli with easy Mock Hollandaise over Kasha: a Lenten Treat

On this first Friday in Lent, I was doing the good Catholic thing of not eating meat. Arriving home after work and our Dekalb Farmers Market with some pickled herring (delicious, but a story for another time) and some broccoli, I set out to make dinner for two. The fastest cooking grain in our cupboard was one I have not used in a long time, kasha. So that's what the broccoli was to go with, topped with my own substitute for the notoriously difficult, and cholesterol intense, hollandaise sauce. Aside from eating the herring as an appetizer on crisp rye crackers (yum), the dinner took about 20 relaxed minutes to prepare.

Kasha is a Russian "grain" -- not a true grain like wheat or rye or rice, which come from the grass family. In the US it is eaten primarily in the Eastern European Jewish community, and even there it's a grandmother's sort of dish. Also known (and more correctly so since "kasha" in Russian actually means porridge) as buckwheat groats, kasha is easy to cook, has a delightful nutty flavor, and allegedly is quite nutritious. "Groats" are roasted (or "parched") grains. Kasha can be found in the Jewish section of the supermarket or in many health and whole foods stores. My recipe below is as low-tech as you can do.

Hollandaise is one of the classic French sauces, named for it's possible origins in Holland or at least for mimicking a Dutch sauce. It is haute cuisine when served over asparagus, or high Creole on Eggs Benedict. It is in fact a sort of hot mayonnaise whipped in a double boiler over simmering water and consists of eggs, clarified butter, and lemon juice. It easily shatters into an irretrievable oily mess filled with rubbery little shards of cooked egg. My "version", which I call mock hollandaise, is easily made from ingredients other than the classics and is both healthier and faster. As shown in the recipe below, it is a mixture of good (i.e., whole milk) yogurt, such as Green Field or Stonybrook or that fabulous imported Greek "Fage", with a little mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Plus fresh lemon juice if you want. It takes 20 to 30 seconds to make.

The broccoli should be steamed just until nicely tender, but still bright green. The steamed broccoli goes on a bed of hot, cooked kasha on an attractive platter, and the mock hollandaise is spooned on top for a healthy, lucious, and (if you are observing Lent) virtuous -- if hardly sacrificial -- supper. Brussels sprouts boiled in lightly salted water until just tender would also do well here.

Kasha and Mock Hollandaise with Broccoli Tim

(serves 2-3 for lunch or supper)

Kasha:
2 tablespoons (or more, to taste) olive oil
1 cup buckwheat groats (kasha)
3/8 teaspoon salt
Water

Heat a heavy pan to medium hot and add the olive oil. Quickly add the buckwheat groats, and stir until smelling a little toasted, 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Add about a cup of water, and stir while this comes to a boil. Lower the temperature, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring from time to time and adding a little water as it is absorbed, until the mixture is tender but not disintegrating, 15 to 20 minutes. Check the salt, and add a little if needed. Remove from the heat and keep covered until served.

Mock Hollandaise:
3/4 cup whole milk yogurt (Green Field or Stonybrook or imported Greek Fage)
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I prefer Hellmann's or other "real" mayonaise for cooking)
A sprinkle of black pepper
Salt to taste
A little fresh lemon juice, to taste (optional)

Mix all together.

Broccoli (or Brussels Sprouts):
3 stalks broccoli, half of stem cut off and the rest of stem peeled
OR
1/2 pound (or more) Brussels sprouts, end of stem sliced off and any yellowed leaves pulled off

For broccoli, set up steaming pan or use a large covered cooking pot with an inch of water at the bottom. Place broccoli in steamer or in the pan (putting stems down in the water and the flower part above water to steam). Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover and let steam about 5 minutes. Test stem for tenderness by piercing with a two-pronged fork or a narrow skewer. Remove from heat and uncover so it stays bright green.

For Brussels sprouts, boil 4-6 minutes in lightly salted water until just tender when pierced with a two-pronged fork or narrow skewer. Drain and do not cover.

To Serve:
Make a bed of the cooked kasha on a serving platter. Arrange the vegetable on top of this. (Sprinkle brussels sprouts, if used, with a little salt.) Spoon mock hollandaise over the vegetable.

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