This recipe uses my new favorite grain, amaranth. Amaranth comes from a plant much like callaloo. Amaranth–the grain part–manages to cook up both chewy and mushy. It eats like a hearty porridge with bursts of firm morsels. I looked at my first batch of this creamy base and had a feeling it would make a great risotto.
Serves 8 (recipe may be halved)
2 cups amaranth
4 cups water
4 Tbs. (1/4 cup) olive oil or butter
8-16 oz. (1-2 packages) crimini, portabella, or white mushrooms
2 bunches scallions or 1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup other veggies (carrots, sweet potato, greens, etc.), diced or torn into small pieces
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
½ cup grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley and additional cheese for garnish (optional)
In a covered medium saucepan, bring the amaranth and water to a boil. Simmer, keeping covered for about 30 minutes. During that time, open and stir two or three times. This will help prevent the amaranth from sticking to the bottom too much, as this may cause burning and become a major pain for whoever washes the pot.
While the amaranth is simmering, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid on medium-high. If using onion, add that first and sauté (no lid yet!) until translucent. Remove and then proceed to sauté the mushrooms and other veggies and finally the garlic. You may have to do this in shifts, depending on the size of your skillet. If using scallions, leave them for later in the sautéing process.
When all the veggies are browned but not yet cooked through, add the white wine and some water, if necessary, and cover. Simmer until all are just tender.
When the amaranth is ready, pour the veggie mixture and Parmesan into the prepared grain. If desired, deglaze the pan (swish around to loosen stuck-on tasty veggie bits) with additional white wine or water, and add the liquid to the amaranth too. Fold gently to combine, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm, garnished with parsley and cheese, if desired.
Photo of amaranth plant: Flickr Creative Commons/foodistablog