Amaranth, amaranthus gangeticus, is an annual plant that is used as greens, and its seeds as a grain. It is thought to have originated in Mexico. The amaranth is a principle staple of the Aztecs. It was also used in religious ceremonies.
Amaranth greens are large and are either green streak with magenta, or magenta with green accents. They are round or lanced shaped and about 2 to 6 inches long. There are several varieties of amaranth greens. The greens have a delicious, slightly sweet flavor. Amaranth greens can be used like spinach. They wilt very easily. The plant produces red flowers. They look like tassels. One plant can produce about 500,000 seeds.
The seeds are used like cereal, or ground into flour. They have a slightly pepper, molasses like flavor, with a slight nuttiness. The grains are tiny. They are shiny, and can be yellow, or black. Whole amaranth can also be used as a thickener when cooked. They get slightly gummy, like okra. When the grains are ground into flour, the flour is unusually moist, and sweet. There is no gluten amaranth flour, so it does not rise when baked. Amaranth flour is high in protein.
Amaranth is very nutritious. The grains are high in protein, due to the balance of its amino acids. It is rich in lysine, methionine, and tryptophan. It also contains magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, zinc, potassium, folic acid, panthothenic acid, calcium, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and vitamins B6, and C. Amaranth grains have twice the iron, and four times the calcium as durum wheat.
Flowering Amaranth plant
Amaranth Cakes with Wild Mushrooms
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup amaranth grain
2 tbsp shallots
3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp finely chopped marjoram
extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, or morels, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh marjoram
1 cup shaved Parmegiano Reggiano chees
1. To make batter for cake: Pour 2 cups boiling water over dried porcini, and let soak for 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift mushrooms from water. Carefully pour mushroom water through fine sieve into another container, discarding any sediment. Rinse mushrooms again, and chop very fine. Set aside.
2. Place amaranth, shallots, salt, chopped mushrooms and 1 1/2 cups mushroom liquid in medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to very low. Cook for 25 minutes or until grain absorbs all liquid. Transfer to mixing bowl, and cool. Stir in egg, flour and marjoram.
3. To make mushroom mixture: heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushroom, season with salt and cook, tossing from time to time, until mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown. Add shallots and garlic, cook 1 minute more and add wine. Continue to cook until only a few tablespoons of liquid remain. Stir in butter and marjoram, and transfer to bowl, or sauce pan. Keep warm while making cakes.
4. To make cakes: pour 1/8 inch layer of olive oil into large skillet, and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, drop in 2 tbsp sized mounds of amaranth batter, and flatten with fork into pancake shape. Cook until browned on bottoms, about 1 minute, flip and brown top. Repeat with remaining batter until used up.
5. To serve, alternate layers of amaranth cakes and mushrooms on individual serving plates or large platter. Top with shaved cheese, and serve immediately.
Originally Published 8-4-11
© 2011 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
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