Among the feats of 20th-century food processing are ready-to-eat cereals. But filling the stomach quickly come morning is an age-old human urge. So it only stands to reason that soaking grains overnight is a method even older than many so-called “ancient grains.”
I never used to fret over the time it took to simmer my steel-cut oatmeal. Anticipating the dish while I sipped my coffee was all part of the enjoyment. Then I had kids, which means I’m pressed to polish off a bowl of cold cereal between distractions before it disintegrates into a soggy mess.
Steel-cut oats are still a staple of my pantry, but the current cache has been there for a good year and should be replaced. I really have no excuse to let them languish because, according to McCann’s, the easiest way to prepare them is to soak them overnight. To 4 cups boiling water, add one cup of oats. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave overnight.
Its sticky cooked texture makes amaranth another great choice for porridge. Actually a seed, amaranth is among the tiniest “ancient grains.” I’ve been looking for likely amaranth recipes for several years and plan to try this one, which reminds me of my “Moroccan oatmeal.” It’s from Maria Speck’s “Simply Ancient Grains.”
Like so many other whole-foods proponents, Speck vouches for making batches on weekends for use in salads, soups and even muffins on hectic weeknights. Cooked grains will keep for seven days in the refrigerator.
Amaranth Porridge With Apricots and Pine Nuts
1 cup amaranth grains
3 tablespoons chopped dates
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons chopped soft dried apricots
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon honey, or more as needed
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts, for garnish
The night before serving, combine in a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan the amaranth, dates and cinnamon stick. Pour over 1 ½ cups boiling water, cover and allow to sit at room temperature overnight (or chill, covered, for up to 2 days.)
The next morning, finish porridge by adding the milk, apricots and salt to saucepan; cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, stir well once with a wooden spoon, decrease heat to maintain a lively bubble and cook until mixture starts to thicken, for about 8 minutes. Stir thoroughly, scraping bottom, and continue cooking at a simmer, stirring often, until amaranth is creamy, for about 2 more minutes. Grains will swell and become translucent but maintain a little crunchiness.
Remove from heat, discard cinnamon stick and stir in the honey and orange zest. Taste and adjust sweetness with a bit more honey and milk, if desired. If you have time, cover and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve warm, garnished with the pine nuts.
Makes 4 servings.
From “Simply Ancient Grains,” by Maria Speck (Ten Speed Press, 2015).