Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Millet-Kale Polenta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto & Grilled Asparagus

My very first companion animal was a budgie bird named Toby. I loved him so much. I kept a photo of him in my school pencil case; I drew hundreds of pictures of him with my favourite markers. In grade four I even fulfilled my public speaking credit with a speech on him and his budgie background. Sadly, an unknown birdie illness took him before his time. A gentle soul, he tolerated my nine-year-old self doing things like this to him:

There were two things that Toby loved more than anything in this world. The first was flying out of his cage so that he could splash around in his little yellow bird bath and the second was chomping away at the millet stick that hung in his cage.

Toby has been gone for seventeen years now, but he always comes to mind whenever I grab the jar of millet from the cupboard.

In North America, millet is typically best known as the main component of bird seed, which is probably why Toby loved it so much. Turns out he was onto something, because millet is delicious to humans too! Unlike many of the other "cereal grains," millet is completely gluten-free, so many of our gluten-free friends can enjoy the feast too (just make sure it is pure millet you are buying - sometimes it's contaminated with other stuff that is not gluten-free and also, something to keep in mind is that folks with very severe cases of celiac disease might still have trouble with it as they do with other grains that are technically gluten-free.) Not only does its lack of gluten make it more easily digestible for most of us than a lot of other grains, it is also one of the few grains thought to be alkalizing within the body (if you're interested in learning more about pH balance and the importance of alkaline foods, check out my review of Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Diet!)

Millet has a sweet, nutty flavour. It cooks up very easily and quite quickly. Its texture is reminiscent of grits, or more traditional cornmeal-based polentas. We love it!

In this recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, the millet is cooked up on the stove with some spinach. Of which I had none, so I used kale instead. When it's done cooking it's pressed into a rectancular dish and allowed to cool/set. After about an hour I was able to cut it into squares, which were then browned in a frying pan.

I had the backyard grill going because asparagus was also on the menu that night. I didn't think of it until it was too late, but I wonder if these millet squares would be strong enough to withstand the backyard grill without crumbling. Grilling up corn polenta is one of our favourite summertime activities and I'd love it if we could do the same with millet. I will have to try and let you know!

I had to play with the pesto recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance as well, since I didn't have quite enough sun dried tomatoes. I put in what I could and used roasted red pepper for the rest. It turned out really well! I especially love that the nut base is almonds and not pine nuts, which are so expensive that you might need to mortage your house in order to obtain the smallest of handfuls.

Such a lovely early spring meal. If you have access to Vegan with a Vengeance, I highly recommend that you try it.


Joey said...

I've never tried millet before, clearly a mistake on my behalf - that looks really nice!

Mary said...

Be sure to let me know how you like it (and if you find a favourite way to prepare it!)

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