Earlier this fall I started doing some recipe development for Roland Foods. My mom and I have been longtime fans of their strong Dijon mustard – something that’s hard to find outside of France, and often leads to a suitcase full of jars every time one of us returns from Europe. Though I probably would accept payment in the form of hot, sinus-clearing mustard, they were plenty of other perks to the job. One of them was getting to play around with specialty grains I’ve never worked with before – things like Einkorn wheat, turanicum, and farro. Of course, I couldn’t really taste more than a small nibble of these gluteny things. So my favorite part of the project was the amaranth recipes.
I grew up eating a lot of quinoa and millet, but for whatever reason, amaranth didn’t quite get as much attention in my mom’s gluten-free pantry. It’s slightly smaller and finer than its other seedy step sisters, which makes for a nice crunchy coating for chicken or fish, without having to grind it into flour. This was one of the recipes I experimented with. But the more popular use for amaranth is as a porridge, either savory or sweet.
I’ve never been much of a warm breakfast cereal person. But my dad is the oatmeal king. It’s one of the two things he’ll make for himself (the other is a smoothie). And he takes endless pride in his fruit and oat combinations. I’ve often woken up to my house guest or boyfriend being force-fed dad’s fiber-rich oatmeal at the dining room table. My mom and I have never been the most consensual oatmeal eaters (even pre-gluten free), so a captive audience for his breakfast creations is something to be seized with gusto.
Breakfast is of course a relative term when you suffer from insomnia and Ambien eating. My dad’s oatmeal is usually prepared anywhere between the hours of 2 and 10am. And it’s a sure sign of a bad night’s sleep when I wake up at 7am and see a dirty oatmeal pot in the sink, though it’s better than finding an entire box of my gluten-free cookies laying empty on the counter.
For someone who doesn’t like breakfast porridge, I’ve sure made a lot of it over the last few months. My blueberry oatmeal is a favorite of my weekly client. And in addition to this amaranth breakfast porridge, I also developed 10 oatmeal recipes for Food & Wine’s website this fall. My mom certainly takes the gluten-free cake when it comes to most of my recipe inspiration, especially at breakfast. But whenever I’m standing alone over the stove, watching my oatmeal slowly simmer away in milk, I always think of my dad.
It’s his 65th birthday tomorrow and we’ll be celebrating many years of life, love, and 4am oatmeal. Perhaps as a gift this year, I’ll agree to one day letting him feed me some.
Amaranth Breakfast Porridge with Blueberry Compote
In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, zest and two tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the blueberry skins have popped and the mixture has reduced slightly, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the amaranth and milk in a medium lidded saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the grains are tender and thick, about 15 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup.
Serve the amaranth pudding in bowls and top with the blueberry compote and walnuts.