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Enter Amaranth

May 22, 2010

Who here loves whole grains?  Who here loves eating grains that would make your mother go ‘huh’?  Who here loves trying new things?

Hello, amaranth, my new favorite grain.  I’d read up on amaranth at one point, noting its similarity to quinoa–both have all essential amino acids, making them excellent sources of protein.  Amaranth even looks a little like a tiny quinoa, though the two aren’t directly related.  They both have a thin, translucent halo surrounding each seed, like the rings surrounding Saturn.  Amaranth and quinoa aren’t actually grains; they’re seeds.  Very nutritious seeds that act a lot like cereal grains, so they both tend to be included in whole grain cooking.

Amaranth, when toasted and cooked, has a nutty flavor, vaguely reminiscent of corn.  I highly recommend toasting it–the smell alone is worth a few minutes of pan shaking.

I found this recipe in Lorna Sass’s Whole Grains Every Day Every Way.  The book is a phenomenal resource for incorporating whole grains into your life.  (I’m so buying my own copy.) Sass covers a variety of grains, from amaranth to wild rice, buckwheat to teff, as well as the families of corn, rice, and wheat.  She gives basic recipes for eat grain & its variations (e.g. for corn: grits, hominy, corn on the cob, polenta, and popcorn) and then more involved recipes & meals like (yum) wheat berry salad with apples and mint.  I’m thinking of trying that with some rhubarb since apples aren’t in season.  I also want to try the amaranth, quinoa, and corn chowder as soon as corn shows up at the roadside stands!

Basic Amaranth Whole Grains Every Day Every Way, page 17:

  • 1 Cup amaranth
  • 1 3/4 Cups water
  • salt to taste after cooking
  • olive oil to taste

Toast amaranth is heavy bottomed pot over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until aromatic & popping.  Pour in the water, stirring if necessary to push in seeds stuck to the side or clumped together.  The tiny amaranth seeds will cling to your spoon and just about anything else.  Turn the heat up and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer over low heat until the water is mostly absorbed, about 10 minutes.  Stir, recover, and let sit for 10 minutes.

The grains will still have a bit of a bite–more toothsome than, say, rice–but shouldn’t be crunchy or gritty.  If you don’t think they’re done, you can add some more water and simmer that in.  Amaranth creates a starchy little sauce for itself, adding a bit of slip to the toothy bite of the seed.  At this point, you can stir in salt and olive oil to taste.  It’s important not to add the salt until it’s finished cooking because salting can prohibit full cooking.  I.E. you’ll end up with crunchy, unevenly cooked amaranth and won’t be able to enjoy the true delights of this pseudo-grain.  Serve warm.

I served this with a lemon-lime tempeh and steamed green beans.

Next time, I’m buying more than a couple of cups from the bulk bins.  I want to try making alegría, a sweet treat made with popped or puffed amaranth, nuts, and a sweetener.  (I’ll probably opt for a recipe with honey, though.)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer permalink
    May 23, 2010 5:29 am

    Thanks for the reminder about amaranth. Gary Null has a great recipe for an apricot amaranth bread that I made a couple of times many years ago. Yum!

    Great to meet your sweetie the other day! I’m going to at least get the bike up the stairs today : ).

    • May 24, 2010 9:46 am

      Apricot amaranth bread sounds heavenly! Was it a quick bread or yeasted? I’d love the recipe if you still have it.

      She liked meeting you, too! Good luck with the bike.

  2. Miss Kim permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:25 pm

    I love your resolutions Kathy! I try so hard to be careful, but it’s not always easy with everything else I want/have to do! If I were to eat completely the way I want/should, it would be a full time job preparing the food and cleaning up. Let me know how it goes!

    • May 27, 2010 11:38 am

      Thanks, Kim! It’s definitely extra work trying to eat from scratch. I certainly haven’t been able to eliminate all processed products from my life. Condiments are my biggest failing. Well, that and cereal. But I have been paying more attention to what’s in the products I buy, opting for the salsa that’s just vegetables, the cereal that’s made of whole grains & lightly sweetened with cane sugar, and so on.

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