I do venture into uncharted territory every once in a while (food-wise), but it is usually after very careful consideration and many recommendations from a variety of people. Recently, and after doing quite a bit of reading on the subject, I've decided that, although my diet would be considered quite healthy by most, it has been lacking a very key "ingredient": whole grains.
My diet is predominantly made up of whole foods. That is to say, I prefer to eat a chopped (raw) tomato instead of tomato sauce, or brown rice instead of rice pasta, but my foray into whole grains has been surprisingly minimal. I eat many types of rices: brown, basmati, jasmine, etc., and, as a result of being gluten-intolerant, I've experimented with myriad flours: sorghum, buckwheat, and teff, just to name a few. But I haven't really gone past that to create meals with grains such as whole millet or whole amaranth in them.
To be honest, those grains kind of scare me.
I don't mean that I suffer from nightmares where small buckwheat groats run after me or threaten to push me off a cliff, BUT, as I am very inexperienced with this sort of cuisine, I fear that I will inadequately cook them, hate the taste/texture/whatever, and never try them again.
Thankfully, broadly speaking, my entire outlook upon food has completely changed as an adult, and, more specifically, as I've become a vegan who has to abide by certain rules due to my food intolerances and restrictions. For the most part, even though I'm scared of the above situation taking place, it's really not a realistic worry unless I grossly mis-prepare a dish that leaves me sick and in bed for days.
In my recent and prolific reading on the subject, I have discovered just how beneficial eating whole grains really is. Not only that, it's been done for centuries. You might have heard of "ancient grains" (such as quinoa), and for good reason: these grains, although not necessarily found in the same version today, have been consumed by millions of animals as long as they have existed. They provide nutritional value that humans have evolved to need for survival. Plus, they taste good, so people continue to consume them in a variety of different cultures and contexts.
I decided to buy three different whole grains at Whole Foods the other day: amaranth, buckwheat, and millet. I really had NO idea what to do with any of them. A helpful cookbook suggested how they should be prepared, but aside from that, I didn't know how to season them, what to serve them with, or how much a cup of dry grains would produce.
I started my experimental phase with millet.
Millet is actually a broad title given to a group of small-seeded grains. They are found in dryer regions of the world, being grown primarily in places at risk of drought. In Russia, Germany, and China, millet is commonly served as a porridge (produced in different ways according to each nation's specific tastes). In America, millet is often found in bird seed. As soon as I read that, I realized that, of course, I had seen it my entire life and had never realized it!
Millet is made up of about 11% protein, comparable to the amount found in wheat. The grains contain many vitamins, especially niacin, B6, folic acid, and magnesium. According to one article, a cup of cooked millet will provide you 24% of the daily value for phosphorus.
It is an easily-digestible grain, as it is more alkaline than most grains. It can be prepared just like steamed rice, or as a cereal, or toasted to create a crunchy texture.
I chose to prepare mine on the stove with one part millet to two parts vegetable broth. I boiled the water-grain combination, then turned the heat to low and simmered the mix until the liquid cooked away. It took about 20 minutes total to prepare, and the end result was delicious. Millet has a sweet and buttery taste with a soft texture, and is a very nice alternative to rice.
I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts (seasoned with garlic salt, pepper, and a spritz of vegetable oil) and boiled sweet potato (with a dash each of cinnamon and sea salt), as seen in the picture below.
Now that I am a pro at cooking grains, I can't wait to try even more! Stay tuned for my trials with buckwheat and amaranth!