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Going with the Grain: Millet

  • Millet, Feta and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms.   Photo by Katy van Geel

  • Photo by Katy van Geel



Friday, February 02, 2018

Gail Gaustad of Northampton is a veteran Five College Learning in Retirement participant as well as a master gardener. Both of these attributes stood her in good stead with her choice of millet for our course on Ancient Grains. While many of us know it as an ingredient in bird seed, millet is actually an important human food source. Also a kind of grass, millet comes in two forms: millet and so-called “millet rice,” both gluten free. It was known in ancient China and Asia and, as it grows well in dry, infertile soil, millet is becoming more important in Africa. (Professor Donna Cohn of Hampshire College and her research team are now building an inexpensive millet thresher that will help women in Africa process this grain.)

Gail left us all in her dust as far as preparation for this seminar was concerned. Back in early summer she planted four kinds of millet in her garden. She brought the dried seed heads to show us (in handwoven baskets she had made from reeds she had grown!), described how much the rabbits had liked the millet, how hard it was to harvest, and how it had to be hulled before use. Gail brought with her some of the millet seeds left over from her planting and offered to share them with the rest of us. After that introduction, there were no takers.

Gail had never cooked with millet before. She made a porridge of millet and corn grits, topped with toasted pecans and maple syrup. (It was beginning to dawn on us how many people in former times ate these grains mainly as porridges.) Additionally, she made a butternut squash soup, thickened with millet cream, a gluten-free thickener, as well as vegan meatballs, pumpkin cookies and stuffed mushrooms with millet, feta, and spinach, our favorite. Gail nodded. “It’s an approachable recipe,” she said.

3/4 cup cooked millet* 

1 tbsp olive oil

1/8 cup minced shallots

2 garlic cloves

2 1/2 oz fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

3/8 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1/8 tsp pepper

1/8 tsp salt

18 large cremini mushrooms, stems removed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make filling:

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add oil; add shallots and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Gradually add spinach, tossing constantly until spinach wilts. Remove from heat. Stir in millet, feta, dill, salt and pepper.

Spoon filling mixture into mushroom caps using about 1 1/2 teaspoons of mixture for each cap. Bake about 25 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.

*Note: Millet can be cooked easily in a rice cooker using 2 parts of water to 1 part of grain.