Amaranth grain - how to cook it, and what does it taste like?
I'm cooking a meal for someone who can't eat any of the 'usual' grains like wheat, rye, oats, barley... and she is willing to try amaranth (which she'd never heard of but as it's a seed it should OK, she thinks).
I can easily buy it - but have no idea what it tastes like. And apart from a few recipes on the web, have no real idea how I'd use it.
Does anyone out there in Chowland have experience cooking amaranth?
My only experience with amaranth is with amaranth flour. I make these cookies occasionally; they won't work for you since they include wheat, but I'll provide the link for context.
In that context, I find that the amaranth flour has kind of a particular, malty flavor; in fact when I first opened the package I wondered if it had gone off. If it has, it hasn't killed me yet.
Amaranth grain has an earthy, nutty flavor and is super nutritious. I guess it tastes somewhere between whole wheat or wheat berries and brown rice. The grains/seeds are tiny, and when cooked they get a kind of sheen and almost look like some kind of caviar. The first few times I cooked it, it turned out kind of like grainy wallpaper paste. I finally realized I had to cook it only about fifteen minutes and turn the flame off but let it sit covered on the hot burner for another ten to fifteen minutes and sort of steam in the residual heat. A scant 3 parts liquid to one part amaranth seems to work best for me. I guess this would vary depending on the heaviness of your pot and the tightness of the lid. You can go two ways with amaranth, cook it like a porridge, like polenta, or cook it, cool it, fluff it and use it in things like tabouleh or pilaf. I think the second style works better, as amaranth is pretty dense in both flavor and texture and the usual tabouleh/pilaf type ingredients like lemon juice, parsley and tomato lighten it up. Tip: cheese and amaranth -- seems like it might work, rarely does (a little crumbled feta might be the exception).
Have you thought of serving quinoa instead? It's very light, totally gluten free and sort of in between a grain and a vegetable in its nutritional profile. It's a lot more flexible and easy to cook than amaranth, and there are many more recipes available on the Internet.
Hi, It's been nearly three weeks, so you've probably already done your amaranth meal, but I just stumbled upon this recipe on the Marvin Woods website and thought you might like it. (I'd cook the kale longer than he says to, but maybe that's just me.)
Amaranth with Kale, Oregano and Tomato Sauce
Makes 4 servings.
1 cup amaranth seed
2 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon onion, minced
1 6-oz can peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons basil
1 ½ teaspoons oregano
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
sea salt and pepper to taste (or use a salt substitute)
Add amaranth to boiling water; bring back to boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes. While the amaranth is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Sweat for 2 to 3 minutes until they start to become translucent. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano and black pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the kale and once it starts to wilt turn off the heat. Once the amaranth has finished serve the tomato and kale mixture over the top. Sprinkle on crumbled feta.
As stated already, amaranth is nutty, will absorb plenty of water, and cooks pretty quickly. It's also 100% gluten-free. It definitely has a stronger taste than rice or oats, but not unpleasant. I find the grains hard to deal with because they're so small, but otherwise a great grain.
If you do decide to cook quinoa as ninrn suggests, make sure you either toast the seeds before boiling or rinse them REALLY well; otherwise they will have an unpleasantly bitter taste.
You can pop amaranth seeds like pop corn. You can cook amaranth grain in a broth (more flavor than water) like farro. There are tons of recipes on the Net for using amaranth in all forms. For a mexican twist go to: http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/2276-mexico-s-grain-of-the-gods-cooking-with-amaranth
For a detailed resource visit: http://www.versagrain.com/amaranth.html
including a video on how to pop it!
The current issue of Fine Cooking (the cover story is something about one-pot meals) has an article about "alternative" grains, including teff, farro and amaranth. IIRC this link has most of the information about amaranth, specifically, but it might be worth checking out for the others.