Saturday, August 11, 2012

Edith Piaf Pilaf

What does it say about us when we feed the birds with foods that in other parts of the world are used for human consumption? Does it say we‘re so well off we don’t need to eat bird food? Or does it say we‘re ignorant of the benefits of these foods?
Case in point, millet. Millet is the tiny white bead with the minuscule black spec found in common bird seed mix. But it’s not just for the birds. According to some sources millet is one of the top 10 most important grains in the world and sustains 1/3 of the world’s population. In this country millet is largely used for cattle feed and bird seed, but I think that’s about to change.
Although there are several verities of grain designated as millet (not all from the same genus) they all thrive in hot, dry climates where other grains will not grow. Considering the trend of hotter, dryer weather we’ve been experiencing lately you may be seeing a lot more millet in your future. Best to get a jump on it and start trying some new recipes now.

People all over the globe have been enjoying millet's sweet, earthy flavor and easy digestibility for ages, literately. Seeing as it was one of the earliest cultivated crops you can well imagine the variety of uses for millet that have come down to us through the millennia. Porridge, soup, stews, flat breads, and beverages (both alcoholic and non); it’s been boiled, steamed, puffed and baked whole in pastries. Depending on the amount of water and the cooking time, millet can be toothy like rice or downright soft like mashed potatoes. And when baked whole, millet yields to a pleasing crunch.
It’s not too shabby in the nutrition department either. Millet is a good source of magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, as well as fiber, protein and vitamin B3.
With all this in mind I set out to create a recipe for millet pilaf. I was guided by the theme of birds, so in addition to millet there are sunflower seeds and dried apricots which are cut into tiny pieces. The title, of course, is inspired by the petite Parisian chanteuse named after a sparrow. I predict we'll all be eating like birds soon, and with millet on our plates we'll even be crowing about it and  singing it's praises.

Edith Piaf Pilaf

1 cup millet, rinsed in a fine mesh strainer
2 cups vegetable broth (or more, follow the package instructions)
1 cup fresh blanched peas, 
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 Tablespoon fresh herbs, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted sunflowers seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
Toast the millet in a heavy bottom pan, stirring often until grains are lightly browned and your kitchen smells like fresh baked bread. Cook according to the package instructions. Generally more time and more water will give you a creamery end product. 

As the millet is cooking you can blanch the peas and do all the fussy chopping that this recipe requires. Maybe the birds will be singing outside your window. This is a good time to toast the sunflower seeds. Again, heat a pan and add the seeds, stirring gently for about 5 minutes until they are lightly golden and your kitchen smells amazing. 

When the millet is ready, Add the minced fresh herbs (I used lemon thyme, rosemary and chives 'cause that's what's growing right outside my kitchen) to the olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Add millet, peas and apricots and mix. Spoon into serving bowls and top with sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Serves 4.

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