43 Comments

  1. Amanda, beautiful post, I was whisked away in your memories, so vivid and beautifully written. I also love the recipe, it is truly comfort food at its finest. PS you should enter this in Food52’s current contest and include this write up. It’s a wonderful recipe and the memories are part of what makes this dish so special.

    • Thanks so much! I really love your comment. Great idea. I’ll definitely look into the food52 contest. You’re so sweet. In making it I just assumed my grandma always boiled the whole thing. I didn’t realize there were processes involved. I’m so glad I did this. Thanks again.

  2. Kasha Varnishkas – wow that sounds like an exotic fortune teller. I’m sure it’s absolutely delicious!
    I collect chestnuts from Hyde Park and take gardening gloves to handle the prickly things. I’ve discovered that the nuts can simmered in water for 15 minutes and are easier to peel. Once peeled they can be frozen for a later date too.
    BTW – I like your new header, it’s very chic 😉

    • Thanks, MD. It took me forever to find a header I liked. 🙂 That’s so cool that you found an easier way to peel chestnuts. I totally ruined my manicure on these yesterday!! I hadn’t even think of freezing them. I hardly ever freeze things, but I also hate throwing things out. I need to be better about it. As for the kasha, I wish I could send you some. It’s comfort food at its best.

      • I don’t have a manicure, but peeling the damn things does get painful after a while. They seem to peel easier when hot, but cool down very quickly. They are ready to pick here in September and October, so in order to have the foraged variety in Christmas stuffing, freezing comes in handy. I don’t notice any flavour difference as a result 😉

  3. I love kasha but wouldn’t ever have thought of mixing it with pasta! Caramelized onions and chestnuts certainly makes this feel both comfy and special at the same time. And beautiful words put to great memories! I just love reading your stories. My mom NEVER made anything like this dish when I was a kid (and the picky Darya I was back then wouldn’t have eaten it anyway…), I’ll ask her if she ever ate anything like it as a child growing up in the Soviet Union.

    • Thank you, Darya. Really, your mom never made kasha varnishkes? I wonder why. It’s all my grandma ever made! I was such a picky eater too. For years all I would eat was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I remember long nights at the table where my parents made me sit as long as it took for me to eat the whole thing. I memorized the cracks in the walls. What a brat I was! I hated kasha…except I loved the bowtie pasta, which was the only reason I ate it. I’m really glad you like my stories. I like reading about your life too 🙂

      • Haha! I remember my mom calling the pediatrician as ALL I would eat (literally) was pea purée and cocktail sausages. She said something like “Thank God she eats at least that”. I also remember sitting at the table until late at night NOT eating whatever was set in front of me. Oh well… I’ll ask my mom about varnishkas, maybe it’s just something she never made for us!

  4. We both had chestnuts on our minds this week.
    My mother-in-law is of Polish heritage and she always had Kasha on the table and I think I would have liked it a whole lot better if is was fixed the way you do – especially with the addition of pasta. You have turned kasha into a gourmet dish.

    • Ha! Thanks, Jovina. That’s so funny about the chestnuts. I had to elevate the kasha because on it’s own, I just…cannot. I needed to add my own touch. It really turned out so well.

  5. A beautiful and evocative piece of writing Amanda. Chestnuts are uncommon in Australia, but I will remember to hunt around next Autumn and see if I can fund them. The chicken stock and onions…I can almost taste what they’d bring to this dish. Thanks for opening me up to a brand new food experience.

    • Thanks so much. You guys have such good food in Australia, but it would be funny to know that someone was eating kasha varnishkes there! Chestnuts are delicious, but they are a lot of trouble sometimes.

  6. This dish always takes me back to when I was living in NYC and had the good fortune of being able to eat at fabulous Jewish delis. I would always order a side of this because I enjoyed it so much. This looks great!

    • Thanks, Serena. They really do have such great delis here. It’s hard for me to order anything but pastrami and barley soup. Everything else sends me down memory lane and then I need a beer! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Lovely pictures for an exotic dish! Foods connectede with pleasant memories are always our favourites! I did not know you had to go through all that pain to get the chestnuts peeled. I would look for peeled nuts in a packet…you are amazing!

    • Thanks so much. What a great idea. I guess I just have so many memories associated with it, I figured I’d try my hand at them. It’s a pretty good dish when done right. Thanks again.

  8. My grandmother used to make kasha too. I only ever enjoyed it with bow-tie pasta, and even then, rarely, but this post brings back such memories. I need to make this!

    • Aw…I bet you still won’t like it, because I’m iffy on it, but made with chestnuts, a little butter, even mushrooms elevates this dish and I actually enjoyed it as a hearty side. Nice to hear from you 🙂 xo

  9. Great use of those roast chestnuts! And fantastic story (as usual!) with a twist of family history. I love kasha, but unlike you, it is a recently acquired taste. I’ve been wanting to experiment with kasha in cabbage rolls or even grape vine leaves. This combination with chestnut might be the thing to try, though I might add dill instead of cilantro. Hmm…lots of good ideas here.

    • Thank you! I’m still waiting to see what you do with your chestnuts. I don’t know if I’ve ever acquired the taste of kasha, but it was an inevitable part of my growing up and I was seduced by bowtie pasta. Oh I think putting it in cabbage rolls or grape vine leaves is a brilliant idea, with tomato sauce or even just steamed. Dill would be good too. I just always have cilantro on hand and it traditionally calls for parsley, which oddly, I don’t like (probably because of being traumatized by another Passover tradition involving salt water and parsley). Can’t wait to see what you have coming. I love your little icon btw!

  10. I have never heard of this dish. The association with your grandmother interests me, where about in Russia would this dish have been eaten? Its nice to connect with food makes the dish taste all the better.

    • Hi Maria! So nice to see you. It’s funny that your last post and mine were so rich with childhood memories. It’s amazing how food has such power. I’m not sure where in Russia this would have come from, actually. But you’re right, the connections and associations elevates a normal dish to something so much more gratifying. xo

    • Thanks so much for your comment. It’s definitely comfort food at its best. I’m glad i was able to add to it so it wasn’t exactly like my grandma’s.

  11. How often is this my comment on your posts? Beautiful words, beautiful pictures. That’s just always what comes to mind!

    I started making kasha varnishkes in one of my many attempts to get my husband interested in his Eastern European Jewish heritage. He’s always been like “well, it’s not bad but who wouldn’t like starches and delicious fat?” So, OK, when we make it now, it’s because I want it! And chestnuts? Well, that’s just a perfect addition.

    • Your comment means so much. Thank you. I put a lot of thought and effort in and is so nice to hear that someone i respect and who dies the same appreciates it. I love what you’re doing with your husband. He probably needs memories attached. If you are ever in ny i have a food tour that might help him. All the best delis. I have that issue with my own husband. He was born here but his while family is from and still in Colombia, except for his parents. He’s so thoroughly American that i keep making Colombian dishes just to keep it real. 😉

  12. janet shields

    I have little interest in the dish, but your use of words describing it and your memories, brought me to tears…..

    • Thank you so much, Janet. That means a lot. And frankly if it didn’t have such memories is be okay not eating these ever either. 😉 im moved by your comment.

  13. Another nostalgic memories of your Grandma. This truly is an interesting dish. Coming with nostalgia, it is especially spacial. This is the fourth recipe I see photo of chestnuts in it, and I just posted one too. 🙂

    • So funny about the chestnuts. It’s that time of year! This is the first memory of this grandma that I’ve written about. My other culinary memories are from my dad’s side. I think that’s why this is so powerful. It’s really the only one i have if her. Thanks as always, Fae. Im going over to check yours or right now.

  14. This was a very interesting post, Amanda, and you taught me a few things. Though I’ve heard of kasha, I’ve never known its ingredients nor how it was prepared. I love preparing recipes that i so closely identify with a loved one now gone, It’s my way of bringing them back into the kitchen with me. i bet you can almost feel your Grandma looking over you shoulder while you fix her kasha. We didn’t have access to chestnut trees but they were a part, the finale, of all of our holiday meals. Imagine stuffing yourself with antipasti, pasta, some meat course with sides, fruit & cheese, a dessert with coffee, and then out comes the chestnuts. It’s a wonder that any of us were able to leave the table. Wishing you and yours the very best of holidays!

    • What a wonderful tradition your family had, John. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It really did feel like a presence. That’s what was so strange about it. It was the only time I’ve ever really felt that I wasn’t alone there in the kitchen. I mean, I never feel alone, but this was really special. I tried to convey it without seeming bizarre in the post. I’m glad you know how that is. Chestnuts are truly a wonderful thing too. The best to you and yours as well. I really appreciate your comments.

  15. A truly lovely piece of writing Amanda – which serves to remind me to spend some real time on my own blog sometime soon! I’ve been letting things slide. Pulled in so many directions. life…You’ll inspire me yet.
    The dish reminds me of my love affair with lentils and rice – peasant food with earthy undertones but so satiating and satisfying and somehow so evocative of home. And the roasted chestnuts – interesting that we all seem to have important memories of chestnuts.
    Beautiful. As always.

    • Thanks so much, Lindy. You’ll get to the blog when you can. I used to judge myself for maybe 2 years for leaving a manuscript behind. I probably still should be judging myself but I had this nagging feeling for years, every day “write. write. write.” Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be doing this. Maybe this will lead me back to it. Who knows. You can only do what’s best for you in the moment (not recklessly) and know that everything comes in its own time. I need to see your lentils and rice recipes. My husband loves lentils and rice. They were on his Colombian table growing up with every meal. His mom has taught me so much about cooking. I hope you’re well. xoxo

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