Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Versatile Millet Making Inroads on American Menus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Versatile Millet Making Inroads on American Menus

Article excerpt

WHAT'S IN that 5-pound bag of birdseed you just bought to refill the feeders? Most likely millet, beloved grain of feathered creatures.

This worthy and nutritious grain-bearing grass is a cereal staple of many countries in Africa and the Middle East, renowned in those parts of the world for its nutty flavor. With the recent popularity of Middle Eastern cooking, millet is finally coming into its own on restaurant menus in North America.

There are a wide variety of millets. In Africa and India, bulrush millet is ground into flour for unleavened bread. A type of millet called teff is popular for flour. Raji, or finger millet, is served steamed like rice or fermented into beer. When you buy millet in your cooperative, natural-foods store or supermarket, it looks like a tiny yellow pasta. I like to toast it before steaming, to bring out the sweetness of flavor that is so important in low-fat cooking. Toast raw millet in an ungreased saucepan over medium heat for 3 minutes or until a nutty aroma emerges. Then add cold water (about 1 1/2 cups for every 1 cup millet). Bring the mixture to a boil, then steam, covered, on low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. When all the water has been absorbed, the millet is ready to eat. I add cooked millet to stuffings, puddings, casseroles, vegetable dishes and breakfast cereal. I mix raw millet into bread dough for a crunchy texture or pulverize it in the blender to add to cakes and muffins. Millet freezes well after cooking, so I cook up large batches and pack it into 1-cup freezer containers. Defrost overnight, then add 1/2 cup to morning oatmeal, lunchtime vegetable soup or even dinnertime chili for extra fiber and nutrition. A reader sent me the recipe for this colorful casserole. It's a hearty vegetarian main dish, and it freezes well. FOUR-GRAIN CASSEROLE 1/4 cup uncooked millet 1/4 cup uncooked wheat berries (available in natural-foods stores) 1/4 cup uncooked barley 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice 1 1/2 cups water 1 teaspoon olive oil 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 rib celery, coarsely chopped 1 small red or green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped 1 carrot, coarsely chopped 2 cups canned tomatoes, drained and chopped 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, optional 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground summer savory 1 teaspoon curry powder 1 teaspoon dried thyme Salt Ground black pepper 2 ounces shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, optional Preheat oven to 350 degrees. …

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