Last night, I reached back into the dimly lit depths of the pantry toward what appeared to be a tall jar of quinoa. Once the jar was in my grasp, however, I realized that it actually contained millet. Millet - the forgotten grain! - that I had forgotten was in my own pantry. But little old millet should never be forgotten: not only is this whole grain delicious, with a mild nuttiness and a wonderful texture (chewy but tender, a bit like quinoa), and easy to prepare, it is also extremely nutritious.
According to my favorite natural foods reference book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, by Rebecca Wood, millet was among the earliest cultivated cereal grains. Millet was one of the 5 sacred crops of ancient China (along with rice, soybeans, barley, and wheat), and the first written reference to the grain dates to 2800 BC! Millet is cooling, good for healing digestive irregularities, and is also a preferred grain for treating blood-sugar imbalances. Unlike other grains, cooked millet has a beneficial alkalinizing, rather than acidifying, effect on the body. Millet also has the most robust amino acid profile, as well as the highest iron content, of all the true cereal grains. Millet is rich in B vitamins, and as an added bonus, gluten-free!
As you can see, cooked millet resembles couscous (which is NOT a whole grain, but really just a very tiny semolina pasta). So why not replace couscous with millet - a whole, nutritionally sound food - in pilafs, salads, or alongside a tagine? From now on I'm making sure millet stays up front in the pantry and makes it into more dishes.
Millet Pilaf with Almonds and Golden Raisins
Millet soaks up liquid like a sponge. If the pilaf seems dry after adding the oil and vinegar amounts listed below, just add more until it looks right to you.
1 cup millet, rinsed and drained
2 cups cold water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
Raw apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Toast millet in a small pot or saucepan over medium heat until it begins to give off a nutty aroma and the grains start to pop, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes).
- Add water and sea salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all water is absorbed and millet is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer cooked millet to a large bowl. Stir in raisins, almonds, and parsley.
- Whisk together olive oil and vinegar, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour over millet mixture and toss to combine. Add more oil and vinegar, if needed, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.