I'm going to make a confession. I have a favorite grain. I suspect that professing to have a favorite grain is something akin to getting a tattoo of a pocket protector, you know? Just making things official. Most of the time, my go-to grain is organic short grain brown rice. We probably eat that more than any other. I've had some positive, but not extensive, experiences with buckwheat. I enjoy wheatberries when I can conjure the energy to make them, which is almost never. I feel a tad bit of trepidation about barley. I trace this back to a period in my life where I ate way too much mushroom barley soup. The memory of the way the barley grains were kind of overcooked and slimy skeeves me out. I feel that this is probably unfair to barley and that I owe it another shake. I really like whole oat groats for breakfast. Our friend Keith experienced the full goodness of this when he lived with us for a few months, and the last I heard he had begun to make them himself. I like quinoa, but it doesn't like me. At all. It makes me kind of feel like dying. At the risk of giving my dear readers a bit of TMI, I can only compare how I feel after eating it to having had dysentery on a trip to Mexico many years ago. This makes me sad. But millet? Millet has been my steady companion. My loyal friend. It's amazingly versatile, packed with nutrition, gluten-free, and easy to prepare. It has a lovely nutty flavor and aroma that make it suitable for any meal of the day. I've had it as a sort of breakfast porridge, in waffles, in baked goods, on its own, mixed with tomato sauce and spices as a sort of Spanish rice (except with millet, you understand).
This post is called millet on demand because it actually represents a totally original recipe generated at the behest of C. We were having an impromptu dinner brainstorming session (see pocket protector reference above), and we were both thinking about millet. I had been thinking about something cheesy and either incorporating artichokes or being a casserole sort of thing. C wondered whether it would be possible to make millet into a kind of pressed polenta. We bandied our ideas about a bit after that, decided on beans for the proteiny component of the meal, and then I took it from there. The result was very tasty, and easy! I highly recommend it for a night where you want a healthy, proteiny, low-starch meal with minimal fussiness.
I imagine that you could play around a lot with the ingredients and seasonings for this pie. The important elements involve seasoning the millet base (because otherwise it would be bland), the creaminess of the beans, and the saltiness of the olives. I would like to try it with, for example, italian seasonings in the millet, roasted vegetables and hummus in place of the refried beans, and kalamatas. And tomatoes. You get the picture.
Savory Millet Pie
1 c millet
3 c water
1/2 t sea salt
1 vegan boullion cube
1 T oregano (Mexican oregano, if you can find it)
1 t chili powder
1 can refried beans (whatever flavor you desire)
1 small yellow or sweet onion
1/2 c grated vegan cheese (I used Follow Your Heart mozzarella)
1/2 c sliced green olives (pitted, obviously)
In a medium saucepan, boil the water. Add the millet, salt, and boullion. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook until the water is absorbed, which should be about 30 minutes. If I were you, I'd start checking it after 20, though, as grains can be a little temperamental. Remove from heat, stir in the oregano and chili powder, and set aside to cool. Leave the lid off, silly. I'd give it about 15 minutes. While you're waiting, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350. Also, lightly oil a 9 inch springform pan. If you don't have a springform pan, you can use a regular pie pan. It just won't be as pretty, but maybe you're all right with that. I won't judge you.
When you return, dump the millet into the prepared springform pan and press down gently. You want it to be packed down and evenly distributed. Bake for 20 minutes. While it's baking, get your filling ready.
In a medium frying pan, cook the diced onion in a bit of olive oil until golden brown. Go ahead and caramelize them if you have the time, ability, and inclination. When they're finished, add the beans and stir to combine.
When the millet is finished baking, remove the pan from the oven. Spread the beans over the millet, and sprinkle with olives and cheese. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 more minutes. Don't get frustrated because your cheese, mostly likely, isn't melting. Here's what you do: For the last five minutes of baking, switch your oven to broil, and adjust the position of your pan as necessary. In my old oven, the broiler was in a separate compartment at the bottom of the oven. In my new one, it's actually at the very top of the oven. In any case, you can figure it out. Broil your pie for a few minutes, checking it frequently. I mean that. This is the time for vigilance. If you get lackadaisical, you could totally scorch the top of your pie, and then you'll look ridiculous. I may even come take away your pocket protector.
The pie will hold together best if you give it a few minutes to cool down and set up. If you can't wait, though, dig in. It'll still be delicious.
So, perhaps it's time for our first vegans squared reader poll. What's your favorite grain? Or, what is your preferred method of ridiculing people who have a favorite grain?