EARLIER THIS MONTH, WE PUBLISHED Jori Lewis’s Our Daily Ceeb, an homage to millet, a grain indigenous to Senegal—native to the soil, yes, but far less popular than rice, which was introduced to the country by slave traders only recently. Ceebu jen, a spiced stew of rice and fish, is widely known as Senegal’s national dish despite its ancestry in extraction, while millet is seen as plain and a little embarrassing. Such is the impact of colonialism—long after independence, we still see ourselves as inferior.
So we start this week with a small celebration of millet, a delicious, versatile, healthy, satisfying grain that’s worth any number of trips to your grocery store.
Millet Porridge (two ways)
SOURCE: None. I chose to wing it and just threw a bunch of millet in a pot with three times the amount of water and a bit of salt. Eventually I added a can of coconut milk, and once it cooked into mush, I divided it in half to try both a savory version (pepper, lemon juice, chili crisp sauce, finely grated Romano cheese, thinly sliced raw scallions, and pickled carrots) and a slightly sweet concoction (chai spices, maple syrup, peaches, and shredded coconut).
DIFFICULTY SHOPPING: The trickiest part was engaging my forager’s eye to locate this particular tiny tan grain among dozens of other tiny tan grains in the robust bulk food section of a local health food store.
DIFFICULTY COOKING: Not bad. I rinsed and toasted the millet first, which is more than I do for my weekly rice, but not difficult. Being lighter and, I don’t know, rounder, the individual grains got a little staticky and were prone to wandering off like small characters dispersing from a crowd. Beyond that, it was just a matter of stirring the pot often, adding additional liquids, and eventually spices, etc.
DIFFICULTY CLEANING UP: Easy peasy.
EATEN WITH: Alone, standing in the kitchen.
REVIEW: The savory version was great. While the first couple of bites left me feeling underwhelmed, I found myself returning to it. The scallions and carrot gave a nice crunch to an otherwise mushy, grits-like texture, and the vinegary spice balanced the bland creaminess. It would have been nice with a fried egg and braised greens. It felt comforting and nourishing to eat—good sick person food. I’ll make it again. The sweet version? Meh. Not bad with some Greek yogurt on top, but I kind of just wanted it to be oatmeal.
Seeded Multigrain Gluten-free Sourdough Bread
SOURCE: Vanilla and Bean
DIFFICULTY SHOPPING: If on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most difficult, this is a 15. There are many ingredients (some hard to find) used in the recipe. After several tries I found it easiest to make some of my own flours—including the millet flour—by grinding grains and rice in the Vitamix. That was a cheaper option too!
DIFFICULTY COOKING: Using the same scale of difficulty, this is probably a 20. Embracing mise en place in the kitchen and some experience working with sourdough starters helps. Keep in mind that you will need to have developed an active sourdough starter before even considering this recipe. Like any baking project, precision is important, and environmental factors such as humidity and temperature play a large and sometime chaotic role in the outcome. The entire project takes more than a day (but with hours of inactive time), from feeding your starter, making the dough, allowing it to ferment and rise, and baking.
DIFFICULTY CLEANING UP: Many steps, bowls, and mixing utensils, and sticky dough make for a big cleanup project. It helps to CLAYGO.
EATEN WITH: My gluten-free friends. My family preferred the traditional glutinous sourdough.
REVIEW: For all the trouble, this is an excellent GF bread and if you have the time, it is well worth the effort. Over four hundred commenters and 5-star reviewers agree! Most store-bought GF bread includes gums and preservatives, so if you like to avoid those sorts of things, this recipe is one sure way to do it. The diversity of flours and seeds give the bread a complex, earthy taste and texture. The millet flour really shines the most, adding a nuttiness and an indescribable golden warmth. Grinding the millet and other grains like rice and oats is definitely the way to go, as it’s quick, easy, and so much cheaper than buying. The finished bread is tacky and meant to be toasted before layering with your favorite sandwich toppings or spreads. It also freezes well, which makes saving and sharing the bread with other GF’ers easier.
Vegan Greek Millet Salad
SOURCE: Plant Based on a Budget
DIFFICULTY SHOPPING: Very easy. I found a package of Bob’s Red Mill millet on the shelf next to the farro and the quinoa at a small natural food store. And it was the same size package as those two and significantly more affordable–less than half the price of the farro, which I love and buy often!
DIFFICULTY COOKING: Very easy. I didn’t rinse it. It was just like cooking rice or any grain, only quicker!
DIFFICULTY CLEANING UP: Also very easy. When I transferred the millet from the saucepan, I cooked it in into a bowl with the other ingredients I was able to scrape the pan quite clean, so washing it later was no trouble.
EATEN WITH: My partner. With oven baked tilapia on a random Thursday evening. I put the millet Greek salad on a generous bed of mixed greens instead of putting lettuce in the salad.
REVIEW: I forgot how much I like millet! I was eating it regularly for a while, but let it fall out of my rotation. It has a pleasant flavor and is so easy to substitute for rice, quinoa, farro, orzo, pearl couscous, and polenta that I like to use as a base for a heaping pile of sautéed or roasted vegetables (with or without meat and/or beans). I suspect I’ll use it a lot for potluck dishes moving forward since I know a lot of people that avoid gluten.
Morning Glory Muffins
SOURCE: Adapted from King Arthur Baking
DIFFICULTY SHOPPING: Three trips, all pleasant. Several real-time Google searches such as is flax another word for millet?
DIFFICULTY COOKING: 3/10, but only because of abandoned expectations.
DIFFICULTY CLEANING UP: 6/10. I poured my millet into the food processor to grind into flour and afterward found grains on the counter, grains on the floor, grains in the caulk.
EATEN WITH: Wife (‘Huh’), older daughter (‘This is very good’), and younger daughter (‘It’s burning hot!’) on a Saturday morning.
REVIEW: May I share my troubles with you? For one thing, the food processor is not the tool for grinding millet into flour, because what I got in the end was a mix of fine powder and whole grain. Also, my brown sugar had solidified in the pantry, so instead of measuring it, I punched it into pebbles which I fed into the food processor to break up. The baking soda was running low, so it wouldn’t fill the teaspoon measure to the top—more guessing. I substituted millet for all-purpose flour and almonds for walnuts and didn’t bother with the coconut, the raisins, the ginger, the sunflower seeds. I forgot the orange juice because the batter looked okay without it. In the end there was every reason to assume this would be a disaster.
But my older daughter was right—it was very good! The level stayed low but the crumb wasn’t stodgy at all, and held the potential for a nice fluffy muffiny texture, if done right. The whole grains of millet added a weird but not unpleasant crunch, maybe compensating for the missing sunflower seeds. Probably I added too much brown sugar. But a better-than-I-feared experiment and if any grocery around here had actual millet flour for sale, I’d keep working on this one.
SOURCE: Just follow instructions on the label!
DIFFICULTY SHOPPING: One trip to the local cooperative market. Found millet in the bulk aisle after I didn’t see it near quinoa and couscous in package section (or other ancient grain/alternative flours).
DIFFICULTY COOKING: I had hopes of making something amazing and had read several recipes, but ended up just making plain millet. Mostly because as I read things that I thought would be delicious, I realized that my less adventurous family would balk,
DIFFICULTY CLEANING UP: Easy.
EATEN WITH: Me, myself, and I, after seeing very skeptical look from my son.
REVIEW: I used the batch of plain millet that I made as an accompaniment to a couple of lunches. Worked well with dal (I usually eat with rice) and gave texture to the butternut soup. I have more to make and hope that my family will be enticed to try some now that they have seen/smelled it.