Millet "Fried Rice"

If it hasn't become obvious yet, I love trying new things. In my adventures in cooking, one of my favorite things to try is new and interesting grains. It's incredible how many there are, how different they are, and how good they are for you! Plus, spending so much time at my local food co-op has given me a great opportunity to see what grains are out there.

I got the idea for this recipe when I saw it in Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Cooking. She has a whole section dedicated to using unique grains in delicious ways and this recipe was one that really popped out to me. I really like fried rice and usually make my own when I have leftover rice. I never thought, however, that I could use something other than rice as the base for this dish. Millet was also quite a surprising choice, given that it makes most of us think of bird food. Millet, however, has a surprising number of vitamins and some protein, making it a healthy and easy change. An important note though: millet does not cook like rice or quinoa. Keep a close eye on it once the liquid starts to be absorbed. If you wait too long (like I did the first time I made this recipe), the millet will be mushy and will not work as well when you are stir frying it with the other ingredients. Also, don't skip the rinsing step; this is important as it will remove excess starch and reduce the potential for mushiness.

I was lucky enough to have some locally grown, fresh picked spring onions to use in this recipe, but green onions are a fine substitution. If you have more local veggies, given the time of year, feel free to add them to this recipe; just remember that vegetables that take a longer time to cook should be added first (right after the garlic & ginger) and those that take less time to cook should be added towards the end.


Millet "Fried Rice"
Makes 4-6 servings

1 1/2 c millet, picked over and rinsed
4 1/2 c water
2 tsp salt
2 smaller (or one large) carrot, diced
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp butter
2 eggs, beaten
8 oz firm tofu, cut into a 1/4-inch dice*
3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c sliced spring onions
1 tbsp tamari (soy) sauce
1 c frozen green peas
A few drops of chili oil (optional)

Combine the millet, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to boil, then lower the heat to an active simmer and cook, covered, until the millet is fluffy and splitting. Test it after about 20 or 25 minutes, and once it is tender (but not mushy), drain off any extra water (there should not be much, if any), and set aside.

Heat the butter and 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the eggs and swirl the pan to evenly distribute the eggs in a thin layer. Cook for about 45 seconds or until it sets. Fold the eggs over themselves and cook for another 30 seconds before transferring to a plate or cutting board. Let cool a bit, then slice into strips. Scrape away any remaining egg from the skillet.

Return the cleaned skillet to medium-high heat and, without any oil, add the tofu to the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove the tofu and set it aside with the egg. Again, scrape out any bits from the pan.

Arrange the remaining ingredients near the stove (this is key because the next succession of steps is very quick). Place the skillet over high heat, add the remaining oil, and let the oil get hot enough that a drop of water will evaporate within seconds of hitting the pan. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the green onions and carrots, giving them a good toss, and then stir constantly for the next 30 seconds. Stir in the millet, cooked tofu, peas, and tamari. Cook for 30 seconds and then fold in the egg strips. Cook for 30 seconds longer, remove from heat, then taste for seasoning, adding the chili oil (if using). If you like, finish with an extra drizzle of tamari or toasted sesame oil and a sprinkle of sliced green onion tails.

Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, p. 64.

*The tofu can be replaced with chicken in this recipe. Use the same amount, cut into the same size pieces. Cook the chicken when the recipe calls for the tofu to be cooked in a dry pan, but use some additional sesame oil to cook it in. You can also use shrimp, but I recommend cooking that separately (not in the same pan as the rest of the dish).

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