Eating gluten-free means I inevitably end up having a salad when we go out. I used to like salad, I really did…until it became a symbol of everything that was off-limits. Now I throw a little pity party every time I have to eat a salad, complete with audible sighs and halfheartedly scooting leaves around my plate. Even though I love the idea of noshing on a big pile of vegetables, there is a strict ban on lettuce if I’m cooking for myself.
Despite the aforementioned aversion to lettuce, I’ve got salad on the brain this week. Not a pile of leaves with ranch and a few lonely olives, though. Especially since it’s October, we’re headed in a different direction, salad-wise. How about a thoughtful melange of whole grain, roasted squash, fruit, herbs, and nuts, barely graced by a tangy vinaigrette? Now that’s my kind of salad.
Year-round, actually, grain salads like this one are my thing. Let me sing their praises:
Grain salads are decidedly un-leafy. They’re not sopping in bottled raspberry vinaigrette, wearing a crown of shredded cheddar, or even remotely likely to hide croutons. Grain salads are a perfect vehicle for chopped or roasted vegetables and all sorts of fruits, herbs, and toasty seeds and nuts. Grain salads will not leave you hungry twenty minutes later. For chaotic people like me, they make champion leftovers and perfectly portable lunches.
When I say “grain salad,” I’m sure quinoa salad pops into your head. I’m not hating on quinoa, but…Quinoa, why you got to be so expensive? $7.99 for a 12-ounce bag? No way, quinoa. I love you, but that’s crazy.
Slowly, millet has found a place in my heart (and my kitchen) instead. Millet is loaded with protein and fiber, as well as vitamin B3 and magnesium. That’s all nice, but here’s the biggest highlight: For reasons that aren’t quite clear, millet hasn’t caught on yet as a “superfood,” and thus is still relatively affordable.
I’m both happy to see that it’s garnering some attention lately from talented cooks (see Emma over at My Darling Lemon Thyme) and cringing at the knowledge that the secret is out. It’s tempting to bombard the internet with anti-millet propaganda: You don’t want to eat millet! Leave it all for me!
But I guess I’ll let you in on the millet secret. Here are the basics:
- Dry-toast it beforehand for extra nutty goodness: either on the stove or in the oven
- Cook it like rice: 2:1 water to grain ratio. I use the rice cooker because I’m lazy.
- Use it for crunch in baked goods: like my favorite sandwich loaf or in millet muffins
- Don’t forget millet flour! I love its mild, slightly corny flavor and soft texture in baked goods. It’s a natural pairing for all your fall baking with apples and browned butter or pumpkin.
And of course, it makes for a fantastic riff on tabbouleh, which is traditionally made with bulgur wheat. I added tahini to the customary lemon and olive oil dressing, and replaced cucumber and tomato with the swoon-worthy pairing of roasted butternut, pomegranate, and hazelnuts. If you haven’t given millet a chance yet, let this toasted millet tabbouleh be your inspiration.
- 1 medium butternut, peeled, seeded, and diced into 3/4" cubes (~1 pound of cubes)
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 3/4 cup millet
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds (or from 1 pomegranate)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons tahini
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Preheat oven to 425F and line a jellyroll pan with parchment or a silicone liner. Pour squash cubes on pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then roast 20 minutes until soft and turning golden on the bottoms. Remove from oven to cool and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, toast millet over medium heat for 10 minutes until it starts turning golden and emitting a nutty smell. Add water, put a lid on, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook 20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Add 1-2 Tablespoons water to adjust consistency.
- Pour butternut squash, millet, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds, parsley, and onion in a salad bowl. Pour dressing over top, season with additional salt and pepper, and toss to distribute dressing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.