Seasonal Chef: Exploring Whole Grains: Amaranth

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We’re closing in on the second month of the Winter Solstice. Let me be right upfront and say this is NOT my favorite season. Local fresh ingredients are at a minimum and I’m already tired of root vegetables. To make matters worse (in my mind) the weather vacillates between mildly cold to arctic frigid. Luckily my creativity is still in full swing with a wealth of beans and grains to pick from. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing soups using lentils and yellow split peas, but this week I decided to delve into grains. On my recent visit to Whole Foods I spent a bit of time communing with the grain display and came across amaranth. This is an ingredient I have not worked with before. A quick check on my smart phone yielded a bit of information telling me amaranth is not only a whole grain, but also gluten free.

Amaranth is a grain that dates back to Mesoamerica. It contains more than three times the average amount of calcium  (and the only grain documented to contain it) and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Amaranth is also high in B-6, fiber and protein, and low in sodium with zero cholesterol. You find it, as I mentioned in the bins at Whole Foods, and also packaged bags in the organic grain section of most supermarkets. Either way, look for it in clear packaging so you can see what they look like.

popped amaranth

Generally to prepare amaranth you just cook it in boiling water or it can be popped in a skillet. I will say that I did the popping method first and quickly tired of that. You can only do about a teaspoon at a time since they burn easily. So I managed about a quarter cup as you can see in the picture, and stopped. I ended up using it as garnish for the dish.

cooked amaranth

Boiling yields this grain in two forms … more water will give you porridge, and less will keep the integrity of the grains. Both ways are delicious, but I opted for the grain form. I wanted to be able to mix it into the salad. I was shooting for a salad this week, along with the amaranth I picked up red quinoa and golden beets. The color combination worked beautifully.

beet greens and kale

The beet greens looked nice and fresh so I decided to use them with the bunch of kale I had hanging out in my fridge bin, waiting to be cooked.

Sauteed kale and bette greens with amaranth and quinoa

I will tell you that there was about 15 minutes when I have 4 burners going at the same time for this dish – but the end result was tremendous.

cooked amaranth and red quinoa

Please don’t let that dissuade you when you are reviewing the recipe. If you start off being very organized and spend just a few minutes to prep everything, the cooking goes very smoothly. I also ended up with a little extra of the amaranth-quinoa mix, which I can use with other vegetables.

Golden Beet, Amaranth, Quinoa and Kale Salad, Seasonal Chef, Maria Reina

My end result was a very delicious salad, that tasted better the next day once all the flavors got a chance to linger together. Click this link to see the recipe for Amaranth, Quinoa and Kale Salad.

The next time you spot this interesting grain amaranth,  give it a try!

Buon Appetito!

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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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