Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mighty Millet Pilaf


Millet. The word always makes me giggle because it invariably makes me think of "pellet", as in food pellets that you feed gerbils, guinea pigs and rats. My word/image association wants millet to look like pet food, as unappetizing as that sounds, but if you are unfamiliar millet is a round, tan little grain that looks either like over-sized couscous or the ugliest bead ever. Fortunately, it cooks somehow like rice (an initial toasting, add double the amount of water, then simmer until absorbed) and, like so many grains, adepts itself well to many flavors. Not that I have always known this, but since seeing millet in my sister-in-law's pantry (and subsequently cooking & eating it) I am able to sing the praises of this humble little bead of deliciousness.

Ah, I can be such a bard when I try. Anyway, I found the recipe on Epicurious where it was described as a "restey", but I have no idea what that is and searches online and the dictionary have proved no help so I have changed the title to "pilaf", because that's what it is: a grain sauteed for a bit, cooked in some liquid, then mixed with other ingredients and spices. I adjusted the recipe slightly to fit my needs, reducing the corn, increasing the mushrooms, adding tomatoes and mushroom-infused oil (yes, my love for mushrooms is now full-blown.) I suppose that makes this one of those "base" recipes, where the instructions provided are more of a template for you to adapt rather than follow word-for-word. Have a green pepper in the fridge? Throw it in. Don't like the idea of curry powder and soy sauce? Add some some olive oil, red wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs (basil, parsely, tarragon . . .) - and damn, I think I know what I'll be making next.

Did I mention millet is a grain? Just in case you are avoiding pasta or pasta-like things (I'm looking at you, couscous), millet is extremely healthy, providing essential minerals and, of course, fiber. Not so nice if you have gastroparesis, but for all others a tasty new addition to the pantry.

Millet Pilaf
adapted slightly from Epicurious

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup millet
2 cups water (broth of your choice would also work well)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced
1 cup fresh corn (cut from about 4 ears), or frozen, thawed
Half of one large tomato, diced
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon seasoned rice-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil (mine was infused with mushroom flavor thanks to this recipe, but plain also works fine)
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1. In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderately high heat and cook millet, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes, or until it makes popping sounds and begins to turn golden. Add water or broth, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Transfer millet to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
2. Wipe skillet and heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté onion, stirring, until softened. Add shiitake and cook, stirring, until softened and slightly shrunken, about 5 minutes. Add corn and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Still in curry powder, soy sauce, vinegar, 2 tablespoons oil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir into millet and enjoy.

Note: my millet was slightly firm, which I liked, but if you want it softer add an additional 1/2 cup liquid. The millet cooking time will also increase slightly, on account of more liquid to be absorbed.

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