Seasonal Chef: Millet

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My adventure with grains continues with millet, this week. I know what you’re thinking: “Birdseed? Why would we want to eat that?” Tis true, there are varieties of millet produced for birds. Ever see those pretty swirly things that hang in the birdcage? Millet for human consumption has the hard outer hull removed, making it digestible and easy to prepare. Millet is another ancient grain; so ancient that archeological evidence of it was found dating back to the Neolithic Era. Originally cultivated in the dry climates of Africa and northern China it continues to be an important grain for cultures that have dry growing conditions.

You’re still wondering “why?” Nutritionally millet is a gluten-free grain that’s high in antioxidants. It provides Fiber, Iron and B vitamins. It’s high in Magnesium, a mineral that helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function. Millet is also highly alkaline, making it easily digestible. Preparing millet could not be easier. There are two basic ways to enjoying this super grain: the ratio of 1:2 yields a fluffy grain that can be mixed into salads. (The preparation I used for today’s recipe.) For a softer texture 1:3 will give you something like porridge. If you like a really creamy porridge you can use the ground versionTo bring out the nutty flavor of millet a quick toasting of the grains before adding water gives the flavor a little more dimension.

Millet is easily found in specialty stores like Whole Foods, in the bulk section. I picked some up this week for $1.99 a pound – probably about 2-3 cups worth, which make a lot! You can sometimes find it in the organic section of the grocery store, and of course on line at Amazon.

shallots

After a cooking a little shallot and garlic I browned my millet slightly and then added the water.

Brown the millet.

I cooked the millet very similar to the way I cook quinoa: after it comes to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and set the timer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat (no peeking!) and let it steam for another 5 minutes. The result is a nice fluffy grain.

Sliced baby artichokes

I’ve wanted to recreate a recipe I did on our vacation last year in Italy, for some time now.

Purple Artichoke Salad, Maria Reina, Seasonal Chef

We did a cooking class with Enrica Rocca and made a really simple and delicious raw artichoke salad, with purple ones found at the Rialto Market. Baby purple artichokes are hard to find now, but I spotted the green variety last week and scooped them up.

Baby artichokes

The key to this recipe is removing all the very tough leaves, then slicing the tender inner leaves as thin as possible. As you are cutting (with a very sharp knife!) keep tossing them into a bowl of cool lemon water. That keeps the artichokes from turning brown.

Fluff the cooked millet

After the millet is cooked turn it out into a big bowl and let it cool slightly.

Drain your artichokes and toss them with a little light oil and lemon. A quick note, I found a new product on my latest trip to Costco: a wonderful mild avocado oil.

Millet and Baby Artichokes, Seasonal Chef Recipe, Maria Reina

I used it in this dish, but another mild oil will do as well. You don’t want to overpower the millet and artichokes, which are mild themselves. Toss it all together and serve. The great thing about millet, in this preparation, is the versatility of the grain. You can mix it in with just about anything, and take advantage of its health benefits. Click this link to see my: Millet and Baby Artichoke Salad.

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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