Archive for the ‘Cooking Tips’ Category
I created this pasta salad for the Spring Potluck for the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance. The theme was Back to the Beginning, to be interpreted any way we wished. So, in honor of spring, which is all about starting again, I made a completely green pasta salad. It was my first potluck with the NYWCA, so I wanted to impress. I don’t know if I did, but this salad got rave reviews the next day.
This pasta salad is open to many variations—you can add anything you want, as long as it’s green! It has several components to it, but if you’re willing to spend a little time on it, the result will truly be gorgeous, not mention delicious. Aside from the broccoli florets, I split the string beans in half, used only the green part of the zucchini, and garnished it with zucchini curls.
Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad
1 medium head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more
2 small zucchini, diced small
2 ½ cups cut string beans
2 cups peas (if frozen, thawed)
1 lb short pasta
½ lb arugula
¼ lb watercress
1 cup sliced scallions (white part only), divided
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium green bell pepper, diced small
½ cup chopped parsley
Garnish: zucchini, scallion greens, broccoli florets
1. Cut the broccoli into florets. Set aside as many “pretty” florets (they should be similarly sized). Chop the remaining florets, stems, and pieces. Blanch and shock the florets. Cook the remaining broccoli until crisp-tender; drain well.
To blanch and shock: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water on the counter. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for a minute or 2, until broccoli is slightly tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet; add the onion and salt, and sweat (cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Do not brown.)
3. Zucchini: Saute in 2 teaspoons just until tender. Transfer to a bowl; let cool.
4. String beans: Bring pot of salted water to a boil; add string beans and cook just until tender. Transfer to the ice water and let cool. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside ½ cup.
5. Peas: If fresh, cook in boiling water until just tender. If frozen, boil briefly. Drain well.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and let cool.
7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, watercress, ½ cup string beans that were set aside, ½ cup scallions, garlic, salt and pepper. With the machine processing, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil until a sauce forms.
8. When pasta has cooled but is still slightly warm, add the sauce and mix well. Add the green pepper, the chopped broccoli, onion, cooked zucchini, peas, remaining string beans, and remaining scallions. Mix well. Blend in parsley. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add whatever herbs or spices you like.
One of the things that people who love to cook relish about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. For people who don’t enjoy cooking, it can often be a sad week of turkey sandwiches accompanied by the same stuffing, same mashed potatoes, same peas and carrots, same everything.
But for cooks, it’s a time to let our creativity take flight. What can be done with all that turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc? How many different ways can we re-purpose them? What new dish can we create with the squash or green beans? Maybe there’s a turkey recipe that you’ve been holding onto until the day after Thanksgiving to give it a go. Some people dread the leftovers; the rest of us say, “It’s go time.”
I love making fresh cranberry sauce every year. It’s far superior to the canned stuff. (Here’s my recipe for this year’s batch.) But the cranberry sauce never goes completely. I mean, there’s only so much of it you can eat at dinner. Plus, some people are gravy people, rather than cranberry sauce people, and others prefer not to dress their turkey at all. So, what do you do with leftover cranberry sauce? The list of possibilities is endless. Or, at least, long. Here are some ideas:
- Mix a tablespoon of it into chicken or tuna salad.
- Make a salad dressing. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to a homemade vinaigrette.
- Use it as a sauce for meats, vegetables, fish, and (my favorite) vegetarian “chicken” patties.
- Mix about ½ cup to 1 cup of it into cheesecake before placing it in the oven. (Just swirl it in; don’t overmix.)
- Dollop some on top of slices of pound or angel cake.
- Stir about 1 cup of it into a big pot of chili.
- Make ketchup out of it—add it to a traditional homemade ketchup recipe.
- Turn it into salsa by adding some minced jalapeno or some chili powder and cumin to it, or a chutney by adding other dried or fresh fruits, such as raisins, chopped dates, or chopped apple.
- Use it as jam for toast, muffins, or bagels.
- Mix about ¼ cup into muffin batter.
- Use it as an ingredient in homemade ice cream.
A really simple way to use cranberry sauce is to add it to a breakfast bread. This one is a healthy loaf, using whole wheat flour and flax seeds. You don’t need a lot of sugar, either, because there are sweeteners already in the sauce. As for the flax seeds, use a clean coffee grinder to grind it until you get a coarse powder. Enjoy!
|Cranberry Sauce-Walnut Bread|
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoons flax seeds, ground
- 2 tablespoons sugar or maple crystals
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup cranberry sauce
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 375. Line an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper so that parchment sticks out of the sides (or grease it very well).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, flax seeds, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.
- In a small bowl, mix together eggs and buttermilk. Mix this into the flour mixture just until all dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the walnuts. Swirl in the cranberry sauce, but don’t mix it in completely—you just want it to run through the batter.
- Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake until lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Some moist cranberry on the toothpick is okay.
- Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto the rack. Serve warm or cool completely.
Makes 1 (8 x 4) loaf.
I’m always picking up new and interesting products at the Asian markets that I frequent. This time, it was a 3-rice blend called “Healthy Grain.” It’s a mix of long-grain brown, black, and red rice. I guess the healthy aspect is the fact that they are whole grains, but it’s also a fun change of pace from your typical rice dish.
The question I faced was how to cook it, since rices all cook at different rates and require different quantities of water. The package says to rinse rice twice and soak it for 2 hours, then drain. Then the instructions get really weird: It says to add 1.8 cups of water for 1 cup rice (what is .8 of a cup?) and cook it in the microwave at 850 watts for 20 minutes. How bizarre is that?
Just the fact that the instructions call for microwaving is odd in itself, I think, since it’s hardly a traditional Asian cooking method, and it’s a contradiction to the whole “health” concept of this product. Microwaves destroy any nutrients in food and change their molecular structure. So, I had to make my own decision about how to cook it. Since there were 3 different kinds of rice, I decided to use the pasta method: I filled a pot with a lot of water, brought it to a boil, added ½ cup of rice and a pinch of salt, and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer went off, I checked it, set the timer for another 5 minutes and checked it again. It was cooked just right at that point, and I drained it. Done.
It reminded me of when my mother had little bits of leftover pasta of different shapes and sizes. Maybe a few ziti, a few farfalle, a few campenelle. They would all get thrown into the pot together and it would make enough for dinner.
The rice is a lovely mixture of colors and textures (each type does have its own texture, the most toothsome being the black rice). This is a great blend to use in rice balls, fried rice, a timbale (see photo below), risotto, rice salad, or as a base to any dish where the rice is a primary visual ingredients. I had mine with black beans but that’s just because it’s what I was having for lunch anyway.
Variety is so important for a healthy diet, psychologically but also biologically. Your body becomes less effective in its processing if it keeps getting the same foods over and over. Plus, in the Chinese 5-Phase theory of food, a variety of color, texture, flavor, and cooking methods play an important role in balanced eating. So, find something new to add to your culinary repertoire. You’ll enjoy your food more and you’ll benefit in so many ways.
I don’t think that anyone would argue that food made from scratch is far superior to anything purchased in a package. Tomato sauce made at home is way better than the jarred stuff; homemade mac ‘n’ cheese blows the box out of the water; and canned soup doesn’t hold a candle to freshly made soup.
Sometimes there are food products that people don’t realize you can make fresh at home. It just doesn’t enter their minds. But there really isn’t much that you can’t make from scratch, including “alternative” milks. One of the things we learned to make at the Natural Gourmet Institute is almond milk. Some people might think that things like almond or soy milk go through some mysterious process, but in actuality, almond milk is one of the easiest things you can make.
Almond milk is naturally dairy free, so it’s the perfect option for people who are lactose intolerant. Soy milk is also dairy free but there’s a lot of controversy surrounding soy. While soybeans are known to have antioxidants, ironically, they also contain estrogen receptors, making it a player in breast cancer. The reports go back and forth, but for those at risk for breast cancer or worry about eating too much soy, almond milk is the way to go. Almond milk has vitamins A, D, and E, calcium, iron, and protein. It helps in maintaining good eyesight, healthy skin, and strong bones and teeth. It’s also low in carbs, making it ideal for weight loss plans
Soaking nuts and seeds overnight add another dimension of health. Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors, preventing the absorption of nutrients. Soaking releases the enzymes and phytic acid, making the nutrients accessible by the body.
Any recipe you make that calls for almond milk will benefit greatly if you make the milk yourself. You can make it up to a week in advance of preparing your recipe and keep it in the refrigerator. Let me warn you, though, that while the process is a simple one, it does get a little messy. You might find that the ground almonds tend to stray. But it’s worth the little bit of mess to get fresh, rich, homemade almond milk.
Fresh Almond Milk
Makes about 6 cups almond milk
1. Start with 3 cups almonds. The almonds need to be skin-free, so you can purchase blanched almonds or blanch whole almonds yourself. To do it yourself, bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add the almonds and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain. When almonds are cool enough to touch, remove the skin. They should pop out if you squeeze them. (Beware of flying almonds!) Place the almonds in a large bowl.
2. In a clean pot, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Pour it over the almonds, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth that has been rinsed and squeezed. Place the sieve over a bowl large enough to catch the milk.
3. Carefully transfer the almonds and water to a blender (do this in two batches if necessary). Puree thoroughly. Pour some into the sieve. Gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze out as much milk as possible. Discard the almond pulp and repeat with the remaining puree.
4. Pour into glass bottles and let it cool completely. Refrigerate.
Fresh almond milk will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.
Cassoulet is a traditional French dish containing various kinds of meat and beans cooked in a casserole dish. Originally from southwestern France, cassoulet is a rich and hearty dish and is usually labor-intensive. You can take a few shortcuts for a quicker, easier cassoulet, but it will turn out rather flat. It’s meant to be a complex, savory dish and you won’t get that depth of flavor if you take shortcuts, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare each component. It’s not that complicated—you just have to be a little patient. Just taking the extra step to cook the beans alone will give a layer of flavor that you simply won’t get from canned beans.
In the U.S., cassoulet often refers to any number of bean dishes cooked in a casserole dish. The word cassoulet comes from cassole, an earthenware casserole dish in which cassoulet was first made. For a great historical account of cassoulet, visit Clifford Wright’s site HERE.
What makes this vegetarian version of cassoulet so delectable is roasting the vegetables. Roasting coaxes the sugar out of vegetables, turning them into something divine. Keep an eye on your veggies and stir them occasionally for an even browning.
What I used in this recipe is brown vegetable stock, which is wonderful to use in many dishes. It’s worth sit to spend the time making it—then just throw it in your freezer for when you need it. However, I know that time is a precious thing these days, so you’ll see that the recipe just calls for vegetable stock. The end product won’t be as rich, but it will be good.
As I said, the beans are made from scratch—that is, you start off with dried beans and cook them until tender. This will give you a much better quality and better tasting dish. You’ll want to throw a piece of kombu in with the beans.
Kombu is a type of seaweed—algae, to be specific. Adding a piece of kombu to a pot of cooking beans makes it more digestible because the amino acids soften the beans’ skin and eliminates some of the gassiness. Kombu is a mild-tasting seaweed so it won’t impart a fishy taste to your dish, as long as you use only a small piece, which is all you need anyway.
Yield 6-8 servings
1 cup dried lima or white beans (navy, Great Northern, cannellini), soaked 12 hours or overnight
5 cups vegetable stock
1 piece kombu (1 to 2 inches)
Sachet (sprig rosemary, 2 bay leaves, few peppercorns)
6 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
3 large carrots, cut into ½-inch chunks
3 large parsnips, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 small sweet potato, cut into ½-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
¼ tsp fresh thyme
¼ tsp crushed dried oregano
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
3 tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Drain and rinse the beans and place them in a medium to large pot, along with the kombu, vegetable stock, and sachet. Bring to a boil; lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until beans are tender (1 to 2 hours, depending on the bean).
3. Toss the carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out onto a greased baking sheet in a single layer and roast until browned. Stir occasionally. Pick out the garlic and finely chop or mash (they will be very soft). Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil and a medium pan. Add the onions and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium-high and continue cooking until they are nicely browned. Transfer to a bowl.
5. In the same pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add the tomatoes and roasted garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
6. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of oil, parsley, thyme, and oregano. Set aside.
7. When beans are cooked, add the onions and tomatoes to the pot and simmer another 5 minutes. Set a mesh strainer over a bowl and drain the bean mixture; remove the sachet and kombu and discard. Reserve the liquid. Pour the liquid back into the pot and cook down over medium heat until thick (it should coat the back of a spoon).
8. Return the bean mixture to the pot and mix. Simmer another 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium casserole dish (about 9 x 6). Spread the roasted vegetables on top of the beans. Finally, sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top.
9. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until browned.
Once again, Cinco de Mayo is upon us. Just like everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Mexican on Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco De Mayo, meaning The 5th Of May, commemorates a crucial moment the Mexican conflict against the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. A fairly small Mexican militia (estimated at about 4,500 men) stopped and defeated the French army, numbering about 6,500 soldiers. Although the victory was short-lived (Napoleon sent more troops to Mexico, eventually taking control), the battle remained an important benchmark event for Mexico because it boosted morale and created a sense of unity among its people, which gave them the impetus to depose French rule a year after the French took control. The holiday is primarily a regional one, celebrated in, of course, in the state of Puebla.
Also like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo has become a bigger holiday in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, and the same way it brought the people of Puebla together, so it brings Mexicans in the U.S. together. For Americans, Cinco de Mayo means breaking out the tequila and eating some great Mexican food. The standard chips, salsa, and guacamole is a good start (who doesn’t like that?), but to really make it great Cinco de Mayo, try making some dishes that will wow your friends.
Here are a few of the many sites where you can get amazing Cinco de Mayo recipes:
If making a rocking margarita is your concern, here are a few sites for you:
At the Natural Gourmet Institute, we had Mexican day, which was our next-to-last class, and we cooked up some unbelievable food (see photos). Mexican cuisine, in my opinion, is one of the best in the world (although I can do without the chapulines—crickets). One of the dishes we made was mamelas, small disks made of masa harina and topped with any number of fresh ingredients. They make great tapas or appetizers. The original recipe belongs to the Natural Gourmet Institute, and I’ve added a few of my own notes, plus my own recipe for Pineapple-Mango Salsa. Below that is a recipe for Jicama with Lime, Salt, & Chile Powder, which makes a fantastic accompanying salad. It has those south-of-the-border flavors we all love with a satisfying crunch from the jicama.
Happy Cinco de Mayo and Buen Provecho!
2 cups masa harina
½ tsp sea salt
1 ¼ cups warm water or as needed
3 tb extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together masa harina, ¼ tsp sea salt and oil.
3. Pour warm water into masa harina (mixture should be soft but not too sticky).
4. Roll into walnut-size balls.
5. Flatten balls with tortilla press.* (Mamelas are not paper thin. About 2x as thick as tortillas.)
6. Place on non-greased cast iron pan** until slightly scorched on both sides.
7. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in oven an additional 5-7 minutes.
*If you don’t have a tortilla press, simply roll them out with a rolling pin as round as possible.
**If you don’t have a cast iron pan, you can broil them or use a regular pan and oil the mamelas slightly.
Top each mamela with any (or all) of your favorite toppings. Here are some favorites:
Black bean salsa
Pineapple or mango salsa
Cheese (cotija, queso fresco, cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack)
Copyright © Roberta Roberti
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 cup diced mango
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp finely minced cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp guava paste or guava fruit spread
1 tsp sea salt
Combine pineapple, mango, onion, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. If you are using guava fruit spread, add it along with the lime juice to the salsa and mix well.
If you’re using guava paste, combine it with the lime juice and mash it until the paste is soft. Stir it vigorously into the salsa.
Makes about 2 cups.
Jicama with Lime, Salt, & Chile Powder
Copyright © Natural Gourmet Institute
Yield: 6-8 servings
3-4 tb lime juice
1 medium jicama (about 2 pounds)
2 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp chile powder
1. Place lime juice in a medium bowl.
2. Peel jicama and cut into batonet or julienne slices* and place into bowl with juice.
3 . Sprinkle with sea salt.
4. Let marinate 30 minutes.
5 . Just before serving, sprinkle with chile powder.
I was recently browsing the Gourmet Garage, a high end market in Greenwich Village, and came across a product I’d never heard of or seen before: Kañiwa. As I often do when I encounter a new product, I bought it. (Although I can’t afford to shop regularly in gourmet markets, I like to browse the aisles because I know that I will usually find something that is not commonly found in most other markets.)
Kañiwa , also spelled cañihua or canihua, is a tiny grain, about the size of a poppy seed. It is a species of goosefoot and is related to quinoa. Like quinoa, it is a whole grain native to the Andean mountains of Peru. Also like quinoa, when cooked, kañiwa seeds have little threads around them. Unlike quinoa, they do not contain saponins, which is the compound that gives quinoa its bitter taste. (If you ever cooked quinoa without rinsing it first, you know what I’m talking about.)
Although kañiwa is new to the U.S., it’s actually an ancient grain and health experts are now saying that kañiwa is the next big “super grain.” Nutritional facts about kañiwa are not yet available from the USDA, but considering that the people of the Andes have sustained themselves for thousands of years in part with kañiwa, it’s safe to say that kañiwa has something going for it. In fact, it’s high in protein (it’s 16% protein) and antioxidants, and also contains fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. And it’s a gluten-free grain.
How to use Kañiwa
Again, kañiwa does not need to be rinsed. Most sources that I’ve consulted recommend toasting. Because it’s so small, it can be incorporated into many things, but is particularly popular made into a porridge. Kaniwa.org provides this recipe (with my edits):
Basic Kañiwa Porridge:
Cook one cup of kañiwa with two cups of water. Bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed. Just like quinoa, it will sprout little tails when done. Fluff with a fork. Serve the kañiwa with butter and a sweetener, such as maple syrup or Rapadura. This will make about two cups of cooked kañiwa.
Right now, kañiwa is hard to find, although you can order it online. I paid $5 for 12 oz., so it’s not cheap but not over-the-top expensive.
The texture of kañiwa is almost like grits, but firmer and crunchier. It’s quite unique. Below is a recipe that I created. It’s a very simple recipe with simple ingredients. It’s great for a party and it will definitely have people asking, “What is this?” In a good way. Enjoy!
Warm Kañiwa Salad
Makes 6 servings.
1/2 cup kañiwa
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 finely chopped shallots or scallions
1 cup mushrooms (any kind)
2 cups cooked white beans
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 tbsp stone-ground Dijon mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Toast kañiwa in a dry pot, stirring frequently, until it has a nutty aromna, about 2 minutes.
2. Pour in vegetable broth. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer, covered until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release liquid and start to brown. Add beans and cook until warmed through. Add this to kañiwa in bowl. Sprinkle in parsley.
4. Make dressing. Whisk all ingredients together until well blended. Pour over kañiwa. Toss to mix well. Adjust seasoning as desired.
My friend, Linda, asked me recently for suggestions on what to do with the water she had used to cook kale. This water, known as pot liquor, has set many a cook’s heart aflutter because it’s loaded with flavor. Not only that, it’s also packed with nutrients from the kale, or whatever greens you have cooked in it.
Pot liquor can be used in place of water or broth in almost anything. Here are some ways to use it:
* In soups, stews, or chilis
* To cook rice, quinoa, or any other grain
* To braise vegetables or a vegetable casserole
* In a vegetable smoothie
* In place of broth in a pan sauce
* If you have enough of it, you can reduce it and add a roux for a sauce, too. This would go very well with grilled/baked/sauteed tofu or tempeh.
* Add it to your pet’s food—it’s nutritious for our furry friends, too!
So, get yourself a nice big bunch of greens—any greens—and cook it down. The best way is to sauté greens in a pan with garlic and oil. But you can also use a small amount of water to boil them. That way, you get the nutrient-packed water without leeching everything out of the greens themselves. Place the greens in a large skillet or dutch oven and add about a cup of water and salt. After the greens are cooked, remove them and save the liquid. To sauté in oil, follow the recipe below, then use the liquid for something else. It will have incredible added flavor from the garlic and spices.
(By the way, I was very tempted to call this blog “Pot Liquor,” but I was afraid it would draw the wrong kind of traffic. As it is, I expect to get a lot of garbage from spammers who are keying in on the words “pot” and “liquor.”)
1 large bunch greens, washed, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Coarsely chop the greens.
2. Heat the oil in a wide pan; add garlic and cook 1 minutes. Add paprika and red pepper lakes and immediately add the greens.
3. Add ½ cup water, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover the pan and cook until greens are tender. The time will vary, depending on the type of green it is. Add more water if it starts to get dry.
4. Use tongs to remove the greens and garlic. Reserve the liquid for use in other recipes.
Until recently, I had never seen sorghum grain in my life. I only became familiar with sorghum molasses a couple of years ago, when I encountered it on a trip through the South. But sorghum, as I learned, has been around for a long, long time.
Sorghum has been known by other names, the most common of which are “Guinea corn, “Johnson grass,” and “milo.” “Egyptian millet” and “great millet” have also been used, which is understandable, since the grain does look like millet on steroids. I’ve purchased sorghum flour in my favorite Indian market, Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights, where it’s called marathi.
The oldest documented cultivation of sorghum is dated at 3000 B.C. in Egypt. Sorghum thrives in hot, arid climates, where other crops might fail. That could be the reason why it became such an important crop in the Near and Middle East. The Muslims introduced it to Spain, who then introduced it to France, and from there, it spread out to other parts of Europe. Sorghum is an important crop in Africa, and it is believed that it was introduced into the U.S. by African slaves in the early 17th century. According to Grain.org, sorghum is the third most important cereal crop grown in the U.S. and the fifth most important in the world. The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of sorghum.
Sorghum became a particularly popular product in the U.S. South, where sorghum molasses is a common substitute for maple syrup and is spread on biscuits, corn bread, pancakes, and—as I found out in Alabama—THROWED ROLLS.
Aside from food, sorghum is commonly included in animal feed, and it is used in the production of alcoholic beverages, such as maotai and kaoliang in China and beer in the U.S., such as Bard’s and Redbridge by Anheuser-Busch. In southern Africa, sorghum beer is popular and is said to be a traditional beverage of the Zulu people. Also, people in South Africa used sorghum beer to get around the prohibition laws imposed on the black community. And since sorghum is a gluten-free grain, sorghum beer is a great choice for those with gluten sensitivities. (If you’re so inclined, you can brew your own sorghum beer. Here are a set of instructions.)
As far as nutrients go, sorghum is rich in potassium, phosphorus, thiamine, and niacin, has some calcium, and has small amounts of iron and riboflavin.
When cooking with sorghum, it’s best to use “moist” recipes—that is, recipes that call for moist ingredients or a good amount of liquid—because the grains are thick and starchy and if they’re too dry, they can have a pasty mouthfeel and be difficult to swallow. And it’s best to serve sorghum hot (or at least warm) because as it cools, the starchiness becomes prominent.
While sorghum might be easy to find in the South, not so much in the Northeast. However, I did, by chance, find some at an Asian market. I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was and, of course, I had to buy some. I did a little research on the best ways to use sorghum and came up with this recipe. Enjoy!
Sorghum and Kale Saute with Cannellini
1 cup sorghum grain
2 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chopped kale
1 ½ cups cooked cannellini
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp paprika
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
2. Rinse and drain the sorghum. Place in a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot or Dutch oven and stir over medium-low heat until dry and slightly browned.
3. Carefully pour in the vegetable stock and a pinch of salt. Stir and place in the oven; bake until liquid is absorbed and grains are tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. If necessary, add a little more liquid to the pot.
4. Heat oil in a wide pan. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, sprinkle in paprika and red papper flakes and immediately put in the kale. Add salt and pepper and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until kale is wilted and tender (but not mushy. Add the sorghum and beans and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes to blend flavors. Add more liquid if necessary.
5. Check for seasoning and serve hot.
This week at the Natural Gourmet Institute, we had wheat-free baking. Wheat allergies/sensitivities seem to be a growing issue around the world; consequently, wheat-free products are part of a booming industry, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to wane anytime soon.
I personally know people who are affected by wheat sensitivities and I have been experimenting with different grains and flours for a while now. I probably would be doing it anyway because I just love using different products in my cooking, but it was nice to learn more about wheat-free baking in an official forum.
We had different flours at our disposal, such as chick pea, white rice, potato and tapioca starch, sorghum, and arrowroot, and we also made flour out of almonds. We made cookies, cakes, macaroons, scones, and tartlets.
I personally made currant scones with chick pea flour, aka garbanzo flour, bean flour, besan, and gram flour. This type of flour is very popular in Italy, but is essential in Indian cuisine. So, it can easily be found in any Italian or Indian market, and probably well-stocked supermarkets these days. A traditional dish in Italian cuisine that utilizes chick pea flour is panelle, which are blocks of chick pea flour mixture, baked or fried, and eaten with sauces or in a sandwich with ricotta and grated cheese. In fact, I have a recipe for it in my cookbook, What, No Meat?
Right now, though, I’m going to share with you the recipe for Currant Scones with chick pea flour. Enjoy!
Wheat-Free Currant Scones
Copyright © Natural Gourmet Institute
Yield: 10 tiny scones
1 cup garbanzo flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tb maple crystals
2 Tb cold butter*
2 Tb + 2 tsp cream
1 Tb orange or lemon zest
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and maple crystals.
3. Cut butter into dry mix to form coarse crumbs.
4. In another bowl, beat eggs, cream, zest, and currants together.
5. Add wet to dry until just combined.
6. Fold out onto table and form a semi-flattened log.
7. Cut log into triangles and bake on parchment for 10 minutes.
8. Serve warm.
*If found that 2 Tb of butter was not enough. The dough was dry and I had to more than double the amount of butter until it was moist enough. When the butter is cut into the dry ingredients, it should stick together lightly when you pinch a little between your fingers. If it looks dry and “flour-y” instead of like coarse crumbs, add more butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s the right consistency.