Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Curried Chicken and Squash Over Millet

Sometimes we just get bored with our usual food choices. When that happens, I rummage in the cupboards and see what's around. Last week we had too many meals consisting of chicken and cabbage, or hamburger and pasta, or anything over rice, and something just snapped. I remembered my once-favorite grain, millet. Since we had also just found our stash of spices (which we misplaced in our move in April), I also had  the lovely mild curry powder we buy from our local Indian market. Problem solved.

Millet is a neat food that does not get the respect it deserves. Believed to have come from China in antiquity, it is mentioned in cuisines from the Far East to Africa and India, is is also mentioned in the Bible. It is not, in fact, a grain, but a seed. It is alkaline in nature, gluten-free, and high in nutrients. I use it to quickly replenish my energy and balance my digestive system when I'm fatigued or suffering reactions from some poor food choice. The curry powder is a spice blend that varies from mix to mix, but always includes spices that are good for digestion. Squash is considered a sweet bland food in Chinese medicine, which is easy to digest. So this meal is excellent for those with digestive challenges.

You cook millet much as you would brown rice. Use one part millet to two parts water or other liquid. You can vary the recipe using any broth, canned or pureed tomatoes, 1/3 milk, yogurt (add 1/4 cup more water or broth if you use yogurt), or some other exciting liquid. Here's what I used:

1/2 lb chicken breast fillets, thawed or frozen
1 cup millet
2 cups water
2 heaping tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
2 small crook neck squash, cut in approximately 1-in pieces
1 small red pepper, cut into 1-in cubes
1-2 tsp tahini

Preheat oven to 400F. Dump millet, spices, salt, and vegetables into the bottom of a greased (with olive oil or butter) casserole dish  that has a secure fitting lid (mine says it's a 3-liter size). Bring the water to a boil, and dissolve the tahini into it. Pour the water over the millet, and stir well. Place the chicken pieces on top, cover, and cook for 45 minutes. Remove lid, and check that chicken is done and millet is soft. If not, cut chicken into cubes, stir into millet, add 1/4 c more water if millet seems dry. Cover and cook 15 more minutes.

This dish is great on its own. If you want side items, I'd offer yogurt  to pass around for garnish, chopped herbs such as parsley or cilantro for topping, and small bowls of chopped vegetables, such as cucumber, onion, and tomato, and perhaps a side of cream of tomato soup. We had maple yogurt for dessert, but something Middle Eastern, such as baklava, or Indian, like gulab jamun or rose-infused rice pudding would be tasty. Or a nice bowl of fresh figs.

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