Had millet lately? The fifth featured grain in our six-week series on quick-cooking whole grains comes in many varieties, but the type most often available in America is small, yellowish and beadlike. Lorna Sass, author of "Whole Grains for Busy People" (Clarkson Potter, 2009), often likes to use cracked millet (sometimes called millet grits), which cooks faster and more evenly than whole/hulled millet.
But cracked millet tends to spoil faster than whole millet, so Sass suggests buying whole millet and crushing the grains as needed in a spice grinder. She recommends Bob's Red Mill brand.
This recipe uses whole hulled millet, which needs a thorough rinsing. Its mild flavor can be enhanced by toasting, which both boosts the flavor and makes small cracks in the grains that facilitate the millet's absorption of liquid (speeding up cooking time in the process). The slight tang of buttermilk and the addition of chopped scallions give the cooked millet a seasoned, soft-polenta quality. Here, we've divided the portions among ramekins for ease of serving. The millet will hold its timbale shape better as it cools, but this dish tastes better warm. So even if the millet spreads on the plate a bit, the ramekins are still a good vehicle for creating equal portions and as a base for the hearty bean topping. (Cooked, shredded chicken or turkey could be added to the sauce as well.)
Serve with sliced avocado.
- 3 scallions
- 1 cup hulled millet, picked over and thoroughly rinsed
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels, preferably defrosted
- 3 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1 cup store-bought chipotle or fire-roasted salsa
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk, plus more if needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
Have ready four or five 4- to 6-ounce ramekins. Grease the insides lightly with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Trim off the root ends of the scallions, then cut the white and light-green parts crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces, keeping the white parts separate.
Place a medium Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the millet; toast it for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently until the grains become fragrant and begin to pop.
Gradually add the boiling water, being careful to avoid the initial rush of steam from the pot. Add the white parts of the scallions and the salt, stirring to mix well. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook, stirring once or twice, for 15 to 18 minutes, until the millet is tender and most or all of the water has been absorbed. Some grains may still have a little crunch.
While the millet is cooking, heat the corn in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it starts to caramelize and brown a bit.
Add the black beans and the cumin, if using; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until warmed through. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the salsa and mix well to form a chunky sauce. When it has warmed through, reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep the sauce warm.
When the millet has become tender, whisk in the oil and buttermilk to create the consistency of a soft polenta. Add the scallion greens and stir to combine. Season with the pepper, and add salt as needed.
Divide the millet mixture among the ramekins; let it sit for 3 minutes. (If there's some left over, place it at the center of an individual plate.) Working with one at a time, place an individual serving plate over each ramekin and invert so the millet is dislodged onto each plate.
Divide the warm salsa among the portions, spooning it generously over the millet. Serve warm.
From Lorna Sass.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.