Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pre-Game Off-the-Cuff Recipe: Millet alla Bastianich

I got the idea to get myself into the Top Chef mood by inflicting a little painful creativity on myself - close my eyes and choose something at random to prepare for dinner. Whatever you choose, it has to be a major part of your meal.

I almost gave up when I looked in my fridge and pantry. It's not that I have nothing to use. On the contrary:

I am very lucky to have this much in my fridge. So many do not.

I have so much I have already prepared that it seemed wasteful to make yet another thing. But I am trying to fritter down my supplies and save myself some money in the process, so I threw those black eyed peas in the freezer and grabbed two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes. They're not the San Marzano kind that Adam Roberts suggests. But these are two other cans I had as backups. With my last head of garlic (NB: buy garlic next week) I set about to make Lidia Bastianich's tomato sauce, now one of my favorite sauces to eat (again, thanks Adam).

8:00 - Both Lidia and Adam like theirs chunky, so they recommend mooshing them up in a big bowl with your hands. I like mine smooth, and I'm lazy anyway, so in the blender they go!

8:03 - Let's start disemboweling that head o' garlic!

8:06 - Phew! I didn't realize how long it'd take to crush all this garlic.

8:09 - Laziness takes over as I throw all those naked cloves of garlic into the spice grinder. Hey, it's clean, no problem...

8:10 - 1/2 cup of olive oil goes into the pan (NB: buy olive oil next week too).

8:15 - The tomato purée is now in there too. I'm washing that basil I have in the fridge and I notice it, well, is a little brown. Still edible after washing, but let's get rid of those stems. Into the pan they go!

Mmmm. Marinara.

8:18 - Okay, here's where I get all Top Chef-y. I am going to close my eyes and choose something from the pantry to eat with the tomato sauce. I grab something off of each shelf, just in case I grab something I can't eat, like parchment paper.

A minute later I have in my hand...

...a bag of millet and a canister of baking powder.

Well I can't eat baking powder, but the millet I can do something with!

Just one problem: how do I do something with it?

Indigenous to much of Africa and northern China, millet can (according to several websites I checked out about half an hour ago) be boiled much like rice. But depending on what you do with it beforehand, it will either be mushy like porridge or fluffy like couscous. It depends on how you like it. Dr. Andrew Weil - yes, that guy with a 10-foot long beard, a shiny bald head and a gigantic grin whose products you see in all the health food stores - suggests 1/2 cup millet to 1 1/2 cup water. That's the amount I used. But before I just dumped it in, I needed to prep it. Vegan Coach suggests toasting it for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, so that the nutty flavor will come out. But do this only if you want it fluffy, not mushy. Hey, some people like mushy millet (for that, just rinse it off without toasting it).

8:24 - Just dumped the millet in the hot cast iron skillet, no oil or anything.

8:28 - Just finished. It looks burned but it really does smell good, like toasted pine nuts. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to look like this.

Smell that toasted millet

8:30 - 1 1/2 cups of water boil away with a little salt, freshly ground black pepper and oregano, The toasted millet goes in, to simmer away for 25 minutes.

8:35 - Time to start writing this post!

8:40 - Just turning off the tomato sauce. No rush.

8:46 - Damn, I just realized that I forgot to add the tomato paste again! Oh well, I'll just add it now and start simmering the sauce again.

8:53 - The sauce is back off and now the millet is done. Did it turn out, or do I have a mess (like the last time I cooked quinoa, for example? Nobody should do that to quinoa. **SHUDDER**).

Is it good?

Yes! For a grain I have never cooked before, it turned out beautifully!

8:55 Et voilà! Toasted millet with my favorite tomato sauce from Lidia Bastianich. Sprinkle a little bit of feta on there (that's where the vegan part ends), and serve with something green (in this case, green beans) and a nice red wine. My choice: a 2006 Langmeil's Valley Floor Shiraz from the Barossa Valley of South Australia. Hey, a hearty grain needs a hearty wine!

9:34 - Edit post: I use too damn many exclamation points!!!