One of the nice things about doing this blog is that I get to learn so many new and wonderful things. Take this week, Shabbat Shira. I’m a day school grad–12 years, plus sem courses , plus hours and hours of listening to Torah lectures on CD and MP3. Never until this week did I know that it is customary to eat kasha on Shabbat Shira .
In this week’s parsha, G-d sends the man, the manna , magical food from heaven, that could taste like anything you wanted it to taste like, no extra calories either!
When Moshe told the children of Israel that G-d wouldn’t be sending any manna on Shabbat and that on Friday, they would need to scoop up a double portion , Datan and Aviran, the biblical bad guys plotted show Moshe up as a fraud.
On Friday afternoon or on Shabbat, there are varying versions of this tale, Datan and Aviran scattered manna to show that it had fallen on Shabbat and that Moshe was a liar. But the birds ate it up, saving Moshe’s reputation( he’d have other problems with Datan and Aviran later on though) On this Shabbat we reward the birds by feeding them breadcrumbs or according to some intepretations, kasha and we also feed kasha to ourselves.
There are different sources to the kasha idea. One comes from the Maharal of Prague of Golem fame. Back in medieval Prague, the Maharal gathered up the children together and told them of the splitting of the sea and the story of the birds . After that he give the children buckwheat to feed the birds with.
But what about us humans? There is a Talmudic teaching that says “Kashe zivugo shel odom kekrias Yam Suf,” That finding ones mate is as difficult as was the splitting of the Red Sea. Kasheh, the Hebrew word for difficult sounds like kasha, buckwheat.
From Sichos in English by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky comes this.
It is the custom of Chabad to eat kasha on Shabbat Shirah.
This custom is based on the pasuk: “Hasam gevuleich shalom cheilev chitim yasbi’eich” — “He has made peace within your borders; He satiated you with the finest of wheat” (Psalms 147:14). Thus, on Shabbat Shirah, when we read that Hashem emancipated the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage and prepared them to be in their own geographical boundaries and also the boundaries of Torah, it is customary to eat wheat (buckwheat).
The word “beshalach” is an acronym for the words b’shabbat shira l’echol chitim — “On Shabbat Shirahto eat wheat (buckwheat).”
There isn’t any special required way to eat buckwheat (kasha). You can just cook it up or make kasha varnishkes, my favorite.
For this shabbat I made two kasha dishes.
Chicken capon stuffed with kasha.
The recipe is adapted from Spice it Right by Estee Kafra, one of my all time favorite kosher cookbooks.
8 chicken capons (deboned thighs)
3/4 cup of kasha. Soak kasha in one egg. Add 1 t. salt. Saute in one tablespoon of oil until the kasha is lightly brown and crumbly,Add 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water and simmer covered for thirty minutes till the water cooks out.
Saute one onion and two stalks of celery or a half a box of mushrooms.
Add black pepper to taste (between 1/4-1/2 tsp. depending on how hot you like it)
Combine the kasha with the sauted vegies and spoon into the chicken which should be split down the middle. You can put toothpicks into the chicken so the filling won’t spill out (I didn’t,but then again I’m not that fancy)
Rub the outside of the chicken capons with paprika, pepper and garlic powder
Bake covered at 350 F or 180 C for one hour and uncovered for 10 minutes.
If you have leftover kasha veg stuffing you can serve it as a side dish or add bowtie pasta for kasha varnishkes.
Lazy persons Kasha knish
Combine one third cup of cooked kasha, one sauted onion and one med sized boiled potato mashed.
Add salt and pepper to taste and stuff inside of phyllo leaves.
Separate four leaves. Work quickly so leaves don’t dry out. You may want to spead a damp kitchen towel over them. Try not to tear them but don’t freak out if you do. You can still use the torn leaves. Spray each leaf with Pam or olive oil cooking spray. When you have four sprayed leaves stack them one on top of the other and insert filling. After that fold at the bottom (about 2 inches deep). Then roll up and brush with beaten egg.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350 F or 180 C. You may need to bake a bit longer depending on your oven. Enjoy.