Had any millet lately? This under-utilized, versatile grain is the fifth featured grain in the Washington Post’s six-week series on quick-cooking whole grains, featuring my recipes–mostly from WHOLE GRAINS FOR BUSY PEOPLE. Millet comes in many varieties, but the type most often available in America is the hulled wholegrain: small, yellowish and beadlike. Of interest to celiacs, millet is gluten-free.
Millet’s 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. You can divide the portions among ramekins for ease of serving or simply spoon the millet onto each plate, creating a bed for the quickly prepared black-bean salsa topping. For a heartier meal, stir some cooked, shredded chicken or turkey into the sauce.
Serve with sliced avocado.
1 cup hulled millet, picked over and 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
1 cup store-bought chipotle or fire-roasted salsa
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk, plus more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
If you wish to use them, 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, remaining tablespoon of olive oil, cumin, and salsa. 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 2 tablespoons of the oil and enough 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.
If you wish, divide the millet mixture among the ramekins; let it sit for 3 minutes. 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. Garnish with cilantro, if you wish, and serve immediately.