Though Russians arrived in San Francisco before the Gold Rush, the real influx occurred in the 20th century following the Russian Civil War in the 1920s, WWII, and anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. The resulting Russian enclave in the Richmond District along Geary Boulevard and Clement Street is still thriving today, and our breakfast this week featured an ingredient, kasha, or toasted buckwheat groats, that Russians use in both sweet and savory preparations.
Students passed around the buckwheat and smelled it before we started cooking and remarked on its nutty, peanut-buttery fragrance. We mentioned that the technique of boiling water, then adding grains, bringing the mixture to a boil, then simmering in a covered pot for 15-20 minutes can also be used to cook oatmeal, rice, lentils, and couscous, for example.
This week’s class required some patience as the kasha cooked so we were able to play a rousing game of Lotería (from Mexico, not Russia) while enjoying the finished porridge with berries, date syrup, cinnamon, milk, and butter.