But food first.
And next to my quinoa in the pantry is my millet. I love millet. I've written a recipe or two on here with millet included, mostly in flour form, but I love the grain. Some people like to make fun of it because in this country our idea of millet is the little yellow grain in bird seed. It's true. That is millet. But we are missing out on a powerhouse of nutrition here. And I just love the flavor and texture it brings to dishes - a sweet, nutty, crunchiness that is different than other grains. I love it. Not only is it gluten-free, like quinoa, it's hearty, filling, eco-friendly, highly sustainable, cheap (seriously cheap! No pun intended.) and getting easier to find in health food stores.
Note: if you decide to mix and match your grains, just make sure you add enough water to the pot to make sure all of the different grains cook evenly. 2 cups of water : 1 cup of quinoa, 3:1 for millet, and 2:1 for rice. And the same goes for the veggies I included. I had squash on this particular day, but the Creamy Pesto Pilaf would be just as good with asparagus, greens, peas, eggplant, mushrooms - whatever you've got. This is a mix and match, what-you've-got kind of recipe. Experiment and have fun! That's half the fun of cooking!
Creamy Pesto Pilaf
Serves: 4 – 6
Cook time: 30 - 45 minutes
½ cup quinoa, rinsed
½ cup millet, rinsed
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
2 ½ cups water
1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 cups squash or zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch half-moons or rounds (about 1 large squash or two small)
½ - ¾ cup pesto of choice (see optional recipe below)
3 tbsp cream cheese, Neufchatel cheese, or non-dairy cream cheese substitute
*Degorge squash, if necessary, by placing rounds in a shallow bowl and tossing with a pinch or two of sea salt. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, then rinse and drain. Set aside.
Rinse quinoa and millet in a fine-mesh strainer until the water runs clear. In a medium saucepan, heat quinoa, millet and butter over medium heat, allowing the butter to melt fully and gently toast and brown the grains, about 2 minutes. Add water and a generous pinch of salt. Allow mixture to boil gently, stirring occasionally, until all the water is absorbed. During last five minutes, place cover on pan and allow to finish cooking. Remove from heat.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, then add olive oil and onions with a small pinch of sea salt. Mix and let brown gently for 1 - 2 minutes. Add drained squash and continue to sauté, adding more olive oil, if necessary. Brown pieces gently on both sides, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Remove cover from cooked grains and fluff with a fork. Add the pesto and cream cheese and place the cover back on top for 30 seconds to a minute. Remove the cover and using the fork, gently combine the grains with the pesto and cheese. In a separate large bowl, place the pesto pilaf, sautéed onions and squash, Mix gently with fork to combine.
*Tip: if degorging squash due to bitterness, do not add any salt to squash during cooking. The salt that remains on the squash after rinsing is plenty unless you like things really salty!
Easy Homemade Pesto
¼ - ½ cup pecans, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts
2 cloves fresh garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder
¼ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (or more as needed)
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Parmesan-substitute (optional)
Sea salt, to taste
In a food processor (or if you’re brave – a mortar), combine herbs, nuts and garlic until finely ground. While machine is running, slowly drizzle olive oil into the mixture until a smooth paste forms. Add cheese, if using, and sea salt to taste.
Cover and place in the fridge for one hour to let flavors mingle. Makes about one cup. Freeze remainder or keep in fridge for a week or two. It's great on bread, pastas, chicken, fish or eggs.
Optional tasty variation: Decrease amount of herbs by one cup and add one cup of sautéed swiss chard, raw or sautéed spinach, or raw or sautéed broccoli. This will add an extra amount of flavor and nutrition! Experiment and enjoy!