Saturday, March 7, 2009

breakfast for a sunshiney day

New York weather sometimes feels miraculous. 

Just this week, it snowed eight inches in one night, and we trudged to the subway through fluff that reached well above our ankles. Today, most of us got on our jackets, went outside, turned right around, and came back in to shed them. It's warm out. It isn't just warm like put-on-a-sweatshirt-and-sit-outside-the-coffee-shop-shivering-in-the-sunshine warm. It's wear-your-t-shirt-and-jeans-and-bask-as-it-warms-your-face warm. It's the kind of warm that made me take a run around Prospect Park this morning instead of going to the gym as I had planned. I smiled as I stepped outside and walked down the stoop into a world that was a little different than yesterday's. In this sunny world of spring, there are young families strolling with their babies and confused toddlers, couples holding hands as they listen to music on shared iPod earphones, and very old men and women who have lived in the neighborhood for years. They walk slowly and let others pass them. They've walked these streets enough times to know that the sunshine feels best when one soaks in it at one's own pace.

This sunshiney day is the perfect time to try making millet porridge, if you haven't done so already. I've been experimenting with millet a lot over the past week or so, and I've wanted to share it with you. I prepared it in my rice cooker, and it turned out perfectly. You can also make it on the stove; I just didn't because I nearly burned my favorite pot to its death trying to make rice a few weeks ago. The night I made the millet, I ate it with a soupy green curry. And then there were leftovers.

When millet is prepared, it begs for a liquid to moisten it. The cooked grain itself has a nutty scent that reminds me of nutmeg. Milk, cream, or coconut milk complement it beautifully. Once you combine the grain with some type of milk, you can make endless additions to the cereal. I simply grated on some cinnamon and nutmeg and then pinched in a few drops of stevia. However, I think it would transport you to Fantasy Breakfast Land if you added any or all of the following: Apple sauce, chopped dates and pecans, dried cranberries and apricots, rehydrated raisins, fresh strawberries, citrus zest, agave nectar, raw honey, bee pollen, good preserves, sliced almonds, vanilla extract, pumpkin seeks, flax seeds, lavender blossoms, flax seeds...

Are you still there? Phew; I went off on a tangent there. Glad I didn't lose you. My point is, you can do a lot with this. You could also make it into a savory breakfast, or add an egg as I did for some more protein. 

One of the reasons millet appeals to me so very much is that it is gluten-free. It has been around for thousands of years (literally), a staple in many Indian, Russian, and African cuisines. It grows easily on soil that is bereft of nutrients, making it ideal to feed those living in arid climates. And it is free of gluten, meaning that those with wheat sensitivity or gluten allergies can eat it safely. As a flour, millet lends baked goods a tender crumb, though it doesn't allow them to rise. This makes it an excellent base for flatbreads. And so the recipe I present below is both gluten-free and vegan. While I eat nearly everything and have few food aversions, I know that many of you out there must be careful. And if you're unable to eat refined sugars and want to sweeten this up, try it with stevia as I did. 

Millet Porridge
Makes 4 servings

1 cup dry millet
2 cups coconut milk
Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, or other garnish of your choice

Step 1 (Rice Cooker Method): Rinse millet in a colander. Place it in rice cooker with three cups of water. Let the rice cooker do its magic, and proceed to step 2.

Step 1 (Stovetop Method): Rinse millet in a colander. Boil three cups of water, add millet, and return to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer slightly for about 25 minutes, or until water has absorbed. Be careful that you keep the heat low enough that the grain doesn't burn onto the bottom of the pan (trust me). 

Step 2: Mix cooked millet with coconut milk in saucepan. Whisk together until porridge has warmed. Add your chosen garnish and mix it in, or spoon the porridge into bowls and sprinkle on top. 


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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009