When I have a recipe fail, I tend to fall towards miserablism. A recipe I was working on involving popped amaranth (which I’ve now discovered I can’t/will never do again), made my house and hair smell like burnt popcorn for a good day and a half. Another, a potato hash that was so bland, I went hungry instead of eating it. I rarely make something so bad that it’s inedible, but salvaging 3 cups of burnt amaranth is a challenge too far for me. It could be my hippie-leaning, tree hugging ways, but wasting food is quite possibly, my worst kitchen nightmare. Number 1, I’m not made of amaranth or money, and number 2, it’s depressing to throw food in the trash. It’s during these times that I want to be taken care of by my food. Cuddled a little.
Writing a cookbook has forced me to learn a lot about my own tastes and patience levels in the kitchen (and in life). There are foods I gravitate towards to comfort me when I have a recipe fail, even if they’re not traditional “comfort foods” by definition. I’m eating large amounts of the following to make me feel better: plain yogurt, roasted squash, peanut butter, chickpeas, brown rice, and warm, creamy grains like this recipe I have for you here. The only thing missing from my list is pistachio gelato––but it’s probably a good thing that I live so far away from a gelato shop, or, you know… It’s amazing how a little burnt amaranth and bland potato can really harsh my mellow, isn’t it?
Contrary to how this post is shaping up, it’s not all so depressing. Let me explain.
You may be thinking, hey, if you hate amaranth so much, why are you cooking with it? You so crazy! Well, friends, I don’t give up on whole grains (put that on a t-shirt) and I don’t hate amaranth. While I advise against trying to pop amaranth (all of the directions in cookbooks and online are full of lies, LIES!), it does make a lusciously creamy and iron-rich breakfast porridge, which is nice for those perpetually anemic folks, like me. Now that amaranth has shaped up its (her?) ‘tude, we’ve developed a really nice relationship. She gives me a good bear scratch when I need taking care of. (Anthropomorphizing food: it’s what I do best.) Of course, I’m still wary of her versatility––she’s not all that and a bag of potato chips (sigh, potatoes).
Even though I’ve (unfairly) ragged on amaranth, I thought I should give you some facts about this fickle whole grain. After all, this is my first amaranth recipe appearing on the blog and I should be kinder to the new kid. Let’s begin:
Amaranth is a a purple-stemmed plant harbouring tiny seeds. Also known as “Love-Lies-Bleeding” (I kid you not––talk about melodrama), this plant can reach up to 6 feet. There are over 60 different varieties of amaranth, all with the ability to reseed themselves, making them easy to grow (even wild) and highly sustainable. Rich in iron, protein, calcium, magnesium, and deliciousness, amaranth turns creamy when cooked, making it an ideal base for porridge. Apparently, it can be popped, but I have yet to successfully do this––proceed with caution. My advice is to use it as a warm cereal grain and don’t go all new-agey and try popping it.
You don’t need to be in a melodramatic, depressed, or even in a plain bad mood to eat this. It’s really just a very comfy-cozy whole grain breakfast. Top with whatever crunchy bits you have available––I’ve used coconut flakes, cacao nibs (which I don’t love, but they pair nicely with the jammy dried fruit), and currants, but nuts, seeds, or diced apple would be equally appropriate. And, since you may need some cheering up after this grumpy post, I’ve compiled some fun-loving links for you to read while noshing on this cozy breakfast:
1. America is About to Get Its First Dog Café, via Grub Street
2. A hugely satisfying/hilarious Simpson’s quote twitter account: @3. For anyone that enjoys the Go Fug Yourself: Because Fugly Is The New Pretty fashion-comedy blog, I think you’ll really enjoy Man Repeller.
4. It’s Time to Get Acquainted with Your Future Self, via Science of Us
5. While I’m not a big fan of chocolate, I may just be the world’s biggest fan of hot chocolate (puzzling, no?). Nothing makes me happier in the winter. A recipe called Bolognese Hot Chocolate from The Splendid Table caught my eye with its unique addition of orange zest and cinnamon. It’s from the 1600s too! Retro-fabulous.
- ½ cup amaranth
- ½ cup arborio rice
- 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
- 3 cups water
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Cacao nibs
- Dried currants
- Unsweetened coconut flakes
- In a large pot or high-sided skillet, combine all risotto ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium, and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring often. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring often.
- To serve, spoon into warm bowls and adorn with your desired toppings.