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.)