Thursday, January 31, 2013

Millet risotto with butternut squash and purple cauliflower

Last week I found a bulk bag of millet tucked into the corner of the freezer, where it had escaped notice after the Terrible Pantry Moth Infestation of '12, when all new grain products were quarantined in cold storage.

I'd scrawled "1:2.5 / 25" on the twist-tie — the notation I use for bulk-bin grains to indicate the ratio of grain to water (1 cup grain to 2 1/2 cups water) and cooking time (25 minutes). I've never made millet before, so I don't know if my numbers were wrong or if the prolonged freezing did something to the grain or what, but instead of cooking up fluffy and nutty and delicious, it came out kind of gummy. 

Unfortunately, I'd made a lot of it. 

Cooking grain in double or triple batches comes in handy later in the week, when you want brown rice but also want to eat in ten minutes instead of forty-five. In this case, it meant I had a big container of gummy millet glaring at me every time I opened the fridge.

So I got creative. I made millet pancakes — a concept that still needs work. I made another loaf of the easy little bread, replacing the rolled oats with 1 cup of cooked millet. (Good, though I should've cut down the liquid a bit, since I was replacing a dry grain with a cooked one.)  

And then I made millet risotto with roasted butternut squash, purple cauliflower, and miner's lettuce. Complete and utter success.

Directions are general guidelines; adapt according to what kind of grain you ruined and what you have in the fridge.

Chop some shallots or onions and a little garlic, and brown them in butter. Add the leftover millet and some chicken stock or other tasty broth. Stir at a low simmer, continuing to add broth as necessary until the texture is thick and creamy-ish and somewhat risotto-like.

Now, the most important step: stir in a big splash of white wine and a handful of shredded parmesan cheese. Just as pickle relish makes chickpeas taste like tuna salad, white wine and parmesan make porridgy millet taste like risotto. Cook another minute or so, stirring.

While the millet was cooking, I chopped up a butternut squash, browned it in a big pan, then added a little water, covered it, and let it steam until tender. You could also roast it. (You could also stir it in with the grains at the beginning, but it would probably just turn into puree — not necessarily a bad thing.) 

I also added some steamed purple cauliflower, because I couldn't resist. 

For the super-bright color combination trifecta, I sprinkled on some leaves of miner's lettuce right before serving. If you want the color but don't happen to have an obscure CA native salad green in your salad drawer, you could try arugula or m√Ęche, or sprinkle on a little fresh chopped thyme or parsley.