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Monday, May 4, 2009

Vegetarian Buckwheat Korokke

Laziness is the mother of invention.

Sunday was day six of rainy and cloudy weather in Philadelphia. I had perfectly no desire to leave my house. After six days of rain, I can barely bring myself to leave my slippers.

But my lunch club obligation called, so I made do with what I had, which was 3 potatoes, an odd assortment of grains, and some frozen peas.

Oh, and PANKO!

See, I'm also moving in less than a month (!), and this process of purging the two years of accumulated crap in my apartment certainly applies to my pantry. It provides a fun challenge; I pick one ingredient and build a meal around it, like the Iron Chef minus the pressure of competition. Though I'm not sure even the Iron Chef's would know what to do with a large box of stale dates or 3lbs of flax seeds.

Panko are Japanese bread crumbs, and are airier than their midwestern counterparts. While regular bread crumbs add density to casseroles and meatloaf, a panko crust assists heavy meats and starches with a light and satisfying crunch. They fry up to an elegant golden-brown, and don't seem to absorb too much fat, though that might be a willfull illusion on my part.

Finding a vegetarian use for panko proved to be more challenging than I thought, especially in the absense of any mushrooms, squash, tomatoes, and as previously noted, a complete unwillingness to leave my house. I thought about making my own seitan, but couldn't stomach the 3 hours of washing and boiling flour, as well as the unfortunate association with militant vegan counter-culture that diy seitan will always carry in my mind.

Thanks to the internet, there exists a world of culinary invention at my finger tips, and I found recipes for the japanese version of croquettes that proved to be just what I needed. Most of them called for meat, but I substituted buckwheat and peas. I was a little worried that they wouldn't stick together as well without the added fat of beef, so I threw in a glug of truffle oil, and they held together magically.

They turned out a little bit bland, so I indulged my obsession with emulsification, and did a quick yogurt-based dressing, with more truffle oil and a splash of champagne vinegar, spiked with garam masala and cayanne pepper.

Vegetarian Buckwheat Korokke

3 potatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked buckwheat [kasha]
bullion cube
1 cup peas
1 small onion, minced
curry powder
truffel, olive, walnut or some other flavorful oil
2 eggs [1 for buckwheat, 1 for frying]
neutral oil for frying

Boil potatoes until they are tender, remove from water with slotted spoon, reserving cooking liquid. Mash while hot. Chuck a bullion cube into the cooking liquid.

Cook kasha as directed on the package, which will probably involve coating it with a beaten egg and toasting it in a skillet. Add about a cup of cooking liquid to the skillet, and cook until the buckwheat is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.

In another skillet, fry the onion in truffel oil until golden. Add garam masala, cayanne, and salt to taste. Toss in the frozen peas and sautee until they are tender and longer frozen.

Stir buckwheat into potatoes, and then add the peas and onions, including the oil. Mix it up real good and form into patties about the size and shape of a hockey puck.

Coat the patties first in flour, then dip in beaten egg, and coat in panko. Fry in high heat until each side is golden brown.

Note: I had some trouble with frying the sides. These might work better deep fried instead of pan fried, but pan frying works just as well. I just had to awkwardly stand them on their sides to let them brown. Awkward, but do-able.

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