Amaranth: The grain that’s not a grain

You read that right. Amaranth isn’t a grain. Like quinoa, it’s a pseudograin. Or you can call them seeds, because that’s what they are.
I mentioned the other day that I cooked up a pot of amaranth on a whim. What I didn’t mention was that, once it was done cooking, I looked at it and thought, “What in the heck am I going to do with this?” You see, amaranth doesn’t cook up into nice separate “grains.” It ends up sort of like little grains suspended in gelatin. Not something you can make a nice grain salad or pilaf with.
Of course, I’d forgotten this property of amaranth when I chose its jar from among the many contenders on my pantry shelf. Quite frankly, amaranth is one of those healthy foods I’ve flirted with for years and rarely actually made a date with. It’s gluten-free, high in protein (a particularly digestible form) and high in calcium, magnesium, iron and other minerals. It has a good amount of fiber, too. (You can find some nice information about it here.)
I recalled making a rather disappointing hot cereal with it once (disappointing because of the other ingredients, not because of the amaranth itself), and decided to take another run at the breakfast idea. And it turned out really, really great!
I’ve never had Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice (although I almost bought some recently, mostly because the idea of it seems so comforting), but my whole-grain concoction is similar to what I imagine those other cereals to be like. It was smooth and creamy, yet the tiny little amaranth grains/seeds retained their individual texture. A pleasing combo!
When I cooked the grains the other night, I brought 2.5 cups of water to a boil in a heavy saucepot, then added 1 cup of amaranth, reduced the heat to a simmer, and put the lid on. I cooked it, undisturbed, for 20 minutes (I’ve read that you do not want to overcook amaranth!).
To ready it for breakfast, I scooped my desired portion into a small saucepan, added some milk, one-half chopped banana, cinnamon, vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and a few raisins and warmed it over medium heat. As it cooked, I ended up adding a bit more milk…the exact amount depends on your preference. I stirred it until it was sufficiently warmed through and the bananas had kind of melted into the mixture. Then I topped it with some shredded unsweetened coconut and a dollop of nut butter, as I usually do with my oatmeal.
Needless to say, I’m quite glad that I happened to give amaranth another chance. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.