In this post we cover another of our super grains: millet—which has been called the world’s healthiest food. Why? It’s a food source of magnesium, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack, especially in people suffering from diabetes or atherosclerosis. It also has phosphorus, which helps in the development and repair of body tissue. And it is high in fiber, which helps prevent gallstones. On top of that, it’s quite tasty.
The grain has been cultivated in China for 4,000 years. From China, it made its way to Europe by 5000 BCE. Today it’s also an important crop in India and western Africa. We Americans are contrarians, so we grow it mostly for bird feed. That’s right, bird feed. But don’t let that deter you. Whole millet is a great food—economical, nutritious, and easy to cook. I knew nothing about millet until my young manhood, when I saw Akira Kurosawa’s classic flic, Seven Samurai. In it, the villagers who hire the samurai to protect them, feed them (what else?) millet. At the time I thought, If it’s good enough for honorable samurai, it sure as hell is good for anyone.
The recipe given below combines this fabled grain with baked fish fillets, Puerto Rican style. It’s a blending of two cultures, and a great mix. And it shows how versatile millet can be. You can make it with poultry, pork, beef, you name it. It makes a great breakfast mixed with cream or milk with a little maple syrup on top. So, be a samurai tonight, eat some millet.
MILLET WITH FILETE DE PESCADO AL HORNO
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole millet (preferably organic)
2 cups boiling water or chicken broth
4-6 boneless. skinless fish fillets, such as flounder, sole, turbot or cod (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon white or dark Puerto Rican rum (optional)
Half of a small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
1. In a heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the the oil, add the millet and toast gently until the grain is tan and slightly brown.
2. Add the millet and remaining oil. Stir, cover, lower heat and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes or until desired texture and all the water is absorbed.
3. While the millet is cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
4. Rinse fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
5. In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons butter and flour over moderate heat, and boil for 1 minute.
4. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Add the rum at this stage, if using.
5. Lower heat and add onion, garlic, bay leaf, pepper and salt, Stir together for about 1 minute.
6. Place fillets in a greased baking dish. Pour sauce over fillets, dot top with remaining butter.
7. Bake uncovered, for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Yield: 4 servings.