Cooking With Amaranth

Cooking With Amaranth

Part of Ep. 1004 Winter Interest

Join Mike Dwyer as he shares his recipes that use amaranth flour and seeds.

Premiere date: Dec 22, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
We've shown you how beautiful amaranths can be in the garden. Now we're going to show you how beautiful they can be in the kitchen. We're with Mike Irwin, of Biologic Farms of Lodi. Mike, this amaranth back here is your cash crop, right?

Mike:
Yes, it is. It's been bred to be used in our northern temperate zones.

Shelley:
Which means Wisconsin.

Mike:
And I raise it as a plant for planting seed, but as well, I raise it for food. Right now, these maturing plants are being winnowed by hand into making seed.

Shelley:
So, I could grow this at home and have my own crop?

Mike:
You sure could.

Shelley:
You've got a whole bowl of it here. Why would I want to grow this?

Mike:
This is the next step here. This is the clean seed. And you'd grow it to eat it in your own family, because it's a wonderfully nutritious plant. It compares with soybeans in the quality of its nutrients.

Shelley:
Okay, so it's good for you. What about the leaves, then, too?

Mike:
The leaves, for instance, are way over 20 percent protein. They have a calcium profile just like spinach. In fact, they taste like spinach.

Shelley:
I can taste it raw?

Mike:
Yeah, try that young leaf. You'll find it mild and sweet.

Shelley:
That's good.

Mike:
And notice, as it gets older, it gets more pungent, just like spinach does.

Shelley:
I like the combination of the two. So, obviously, I can serve this as a raw salad.

Mike:
You sure can. Or, you can stir fry it with other veggies.

Shelley:
Wonderful. And they're so pretty. What a beautiful salad. How would I use the seed? Obviously, you grind it into flour.

Mike:
That's one of the ways, is to make flour in a kitchen mill. Some people even cheat and use a coffee grinder for small recipes. What I've done, is I've taken some really simple Joy of Cooking recipes and substituted amaranth flour for the traditional flours in the recipes.

Shelley:
You do this entirely, then, with amaranth flour?

Mike:
No, I blend it, the cornmeal and the wheat flour with the amaranth flour, about one-third, one-third, one-third in this cornbread. Use purposely, leaveners like baking powder and baking soda since amaranth doesn't have any gluten.

Shelley:
Which is good for people who are allergic to that.

Mike:
Right, it's very popular with gluten-allergic people.

Shelley:
But without gluten, it's not going to rise. That's why you need the leaveners.

Mike:
The same is true with the pancakes.

Shelley:
It's good, too.

Mike:
I borrowed this from the Joy of Cooking, and I modified the standard recipe and substituted amaranth flour. This recipe is about two-thirds whole wheat flour and one-third amaranth flour. And again, the leaveners are baking powder and baking soda.

Shelley:
A little syrup and it looks like we're all set.

Mike:
Exactly. And a very, very tasty and hearty breakfast. My friends kid me, and they say, "Mike, we get pancakes at your house for breakfast and we don't eat lunch until 3:00."

Shelley:
It's good for you and nutritious. Do we want to talk about dessert?

Mike:
Oh, I think we should. It's a wonderful dessert. It's called allogria. It probably goes back to Aztec times. And this includes a popped or puffed amaranth. And I sent you home with that recipe. What happened, Shelley?

Shelley:
You made me do the hard work! Now I know. You didn't tell me how difficult, or how challenging it is to pop these amaranth seeds. The first couple attempts, my sink ate very well. What I learned the hard way was to pop them in a cast iron skillet, small amounts at a time.

Mike:
And air puffers are your friend if you happen to have one in the house.

Shelley:
Thanks, that would've helped.

Mike:
Did I forget to tell you that?

Shelley:
Well, after three or four times, and filling up the sink with some brown toasted seeds, I finally got it to pop. I blended it with the corn syrup, the rice syrup, I think the recipe said, cinnamon and toasted sunflower seeds. And it's delicious!

Mike:
Yes, and what happens, for reasons I can't explain, is the protein levels go from 16 or 18 percent about another two percent higher when you puff the amaranth.

Shelley:
So, I need to get an air popper.

Mike:
I think so.

Shelley:
Thanks, Mike.

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