Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baked Marinated Salmon on a bed of Herbed African Millet with Curry and Sage

Today, I had the inspiration for something simple and delicious. My cupboards are a bit bare, as I need to journey to Whole Foods or the like, so while rummaging around, I realized I had some fantastic marinated salmon from Costco (gluten-free, of course) and as always, I have plenty of herbs and millet - one of my staples.
You know, I love millet because of its crunchy and unique texture, its nutty aroma and flavor and well, because it's incredibly good for me. With plenty of iron and zinc and vitamins of every imaginable kind, millet is a little powerhouse of nutrition. If I had the choice, I'd choose this little tiny yellow ancient grain over rice any day.

Don't get me wrong. I love rice. Really.

I just love millet more.

And here's why: Millet is a highly sustainable and incredibly self-sustaining little powerhouse grain that has nearly faded from our global diet simply because we favor what's cheap and easy: rice, wheat, and anything in a package. Millet is still the staple for many cultures outside North America and there are many good reasons why. First, millet is a grain that can be re-grown in the same soil for three cycles, unlike the single farrow of wheat (meaning, the soil must be replenished and renewed every intermittent cycle because wheat drains the soil of nutrients, which is interesting because if you look at the nutrient composition of millet versus wheat, you'd never believe that to be true); second, millet is a powerhouse of nutrition with tons of protein, iron, zinc and phosphorus, B vitamins of many kinds and so much more - in comparison to wheat and rice, millet is a better choice because it's nutrient-dense (meaning you get more for your money and have to eat less to feel great); and third, millet's cheap. Yes, that's right. It's cheap, easily accessible at most natural health food stores and it costs less than rice most of the time. At my local health food store, the millet flour (which I use for almost everything) is almost fifty cents cheaper per pound. Why? Supply and demand. People just don't know what to do with millet.

And that's where I come in. I am not afraid of any little yellow grain. It's savory and it can be made sweet. It has a slightly nutty flavor that is enhanced if you toast it first, but that's not even necessary to get a great quality flavor. It will sit on your shelf or in your food storage for years without degrading and you could even plant a few and grow it easily, if you lived where it was dry enough. Millet likes arid conditions to grow and interesting enough, we Americans do grow it. It's virtually everywhere, you just don't know it.

Go outside. Sit on your back porch. Take a glass of tea or chardonnay with you and watch the clouds pass by. Now, look at your bird feeder. Are there any little chickadees or finches fighting for seeds and grains? How about any little yellow grains about the size of a pin head?

Look familiar?

It should. That's millet. Some farmers call it hershey - not to be confused with the chocolate creators in Pennsylvania - and the birds love it. So do cows and sheep and goats and many, many other animals. The farmers across America grow it to feed to our animals because, you guessed it, it's cheap, easy to grow, highly sustainable and incredibly nutritious. The animals live better and longer eating millet than oats and wheat. Hmmm. We should learn from that.

Why are we feeding this little yellow deliciousness only to our beloved animals? Time to feed ourselves that kind of nutrition too.

So, what do you do with millet?

Well, there are lots of things you can do with millet. Make it into a flour and bake with it, which I do often. Or buy the flour and use it to thicken sauces instead of wheat flour or cornstarch for a little extra nutrient punch without any difference in flavor. Use the grain instead of rice in stuffed squashes and peppers. Make a nice side dish to complement any type of meat, poultry or fish. Use it to make a breakfast cereal with a little extra added sweetness like they do in Africa. But be forewarned, you may come to love this ancient little grain. It has been around for thousands of years and it's about to come back into style.

Baked Marinated Salmon on a bed of Herbed African Millet with Curry and Sage

Serves 4

4 marinated salmon fillets (I used Morey's Marinated Wild Alaskan Salmon from Costco), thawed or frozen

1 cup whole grain millet

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp rubbed sage

2 tsp oregano

1 tbsp butter, natural margarine, or olive oil

3 cups water

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp honey, agave nectar or maple syrup

Salt to taste

Bake fillets according to package directions. (If cooking 4 frozen fillets, wait to start millet until fillets are about 25 minutes from being done.)
Wash millet in a fine mesh strainer under cool water until the grain runs clear about 30 seconds or so. Place millet in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add curry, sage and oregano and toast millet and spices over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

When spices become aromatic, add butter, margarine or oil until melted and mix thoroughly. Add water and salt and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook millet, stirring often, until all water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

When water is fully absorbed, remove millet from heat and stir in honey, agave or maple syrup. Add salt to taste.

Make a bed of herbed millet on each place, placing one salmon fillet on top. Sprinkle on a little parsley, if desired, and enjoy!

Happy eating!


  1. This might be one of those dishes I'd have to taste before making it myself. But you're definitely persuading me towards giving millet a try. It sounds like a fabulous food storage item!

  2. Megan-

    You know, I think it'd be a great food storage item and so would quinoa. I really enjoy all the various things our earth provides for us with all the crazy textures and flavors. It's so abundant!

    I think the best way to start with alternative grains is to try the flours. Really. I know, most of us are scared to try using flours we don't know how to use, but I think the flours get our palate accustomed to any differences in flavor. If you ever want to try some millet flour, let me know. I have plenty! If you make soups or sauces, it's a great thickener.

    Or feel free to just jump right in and try the grains!