Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Amaranth “Couscous”
Have you cooked or tasted amaranth? In case you are not familiar with this tasty gluten free ancient grain, I thought I’d share some info that might encourage you to do so :)
According to About.com and Teri Gruss, “the word amaranth means “everlasting” in Greek…this tiny seed has endured the ages, as an important food source for ancient civilizations in South America and Mexico, to its current resurgence as a highly nutritious gluten-free grain.”
Top 10 reasons to incorporate amaranth into your diet:
1. Amaranth contains more protein than any other gluten-free grain-and more protein than wheat. One cup of raw amaranth contains 28.1 grams of protein. Oats are a close second with 26.3 grams of protein.
2. Amaranth is an excellent source of lysine, an important amino acid (protein). Grains are notorious for low lysine content, which decreases the quality of their proteins. The high lysine content in amaranth sets it apart from other grains. Food scientists consider the protein content of amaranth of high “biological value”, similar in fact, to the proteins found in milk. This means that amaranth contains an excellent combination of essential amino acids and is well absorbed in the intestinal tract.
3. Another advantage of the protein content of amaranth is that the primary proteins in amaranth are “albumins” and “globulins”. In comparison, the major proteins in wheat are called “prolamins”, which are considered less soluble and less digestible than are albumins and globulin proteins. Bottom line- the amount, types and digestibility of proteins in amaranth make it an excellent plant source of high quality proteins.
4. Amaranth is second only to teff in calcium content.1 cup of raw teff contains 347 milligrams of calicum, amaranth 298 milligrams. In comparison, 1 cup of white rice contains 52 milligrams.
5. Amaranth contains more magnesium than other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 519 milligrams of magnesium, followed by buckwheat with 393 milligrams and sorghum with 365 milligrams. In comparison, an equal amount of white rice contains 46 milligrams of magnesium.
6. Amaranth contains more iron than other gluten-free grains. 1 cup of raw amaranth contains 15 milligrams of iron. Teff is a close second with 14.7 milligrams of iron. In comparison, white rice contains 1.5 milligrams of iron.
7. Amaranth contains more fiber than other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 18 grams of fiber- buckwheat and millet contain 17 grams. In comparison, white rice contains 2.4 grams of fiber.
8. Amaranth is slightly lower in carbohydrate content compared to other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 129 grams of carbohyrates, white rice 148 grams, brown rice and sorghum 143 grams and teff 141 grams of carbohyrdates. Oats contain 103 grams of carbohyrates, making them the lowest carb gluten free grain.
9. Amaranth is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids(as are most whole grains) and it contains vitamin E in similar amounts to olive oil.
10. When you add amaranth in amounts up to 25% of total flour used in gluten-free recipes you improve the nutritional value, the taste and texture of gluten free baked goods. Additionally, amaranth is an exceptional thickener for roux, white sauces, soups and stews.
You may be thinking….if amaranth is such a nutritional powerhouse, why not use it exclusively in gluten-free baking?
Amaranth, by nature, absorbs water very easily. That’s what gives it great emulsifying properties. But if amaranth is used solely in gluten-free baking recipes, baked goods become too dense. Breads will not rise properly and pancakes and cookies become too heavy. The key is combining a variety of gluten free flours and starches to create a blend that mimics the properties of gluten.
Go on and add amaranth to gluten-free flour blends, sauces, soups and stews to significantly improve the nutritional quality of your gluten-free diet.
Here’s a simple recipe for amaranth in a couscous style – lightly studded with creamy goat cheese, flavor-packed sun dried tomatoes and crunchy walnuts. The tangy cheese and dried tomatoes compliment the nuttiness of the cooked grain while the walnuts add great texture – couldn’t be more simple!
Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Amaranth “Couscous”
1 cup uncooked amaranth
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (dried or oil-packed)
2-3 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled (feta cheese or other could also be used)
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp chopped walnuts
drizzle of olive oil, optional
Rice Cooker Method:
1. Add amaranth and broth/water to your rice cooker. Set on rice cooking mode until cooked. Let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. (Note that amaranth will not fluff as much as traditional couscous)
2. Add chopped tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!
1. Add amaranth and broth/water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir and lower heat to simmer for 18-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and grains are cooked.
2. Let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. (Note that amaranth will not fluff as much as traditional couscous)
3. Add chopped tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!
***On my to do list: Create a cake or quick bread using amaranth flour….to come! Anyone have a flavor suggestion?
A few other ways to enjoy amaranth:
- To make an amaranth porridge, cook amaranth in a ratio of 1:3 with water. Add sliced apples, chopped almonds or walnuts and a touch of cinnamon, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
- Heat amaranth in a heavy, dry skillet over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop. Serve with almond or coconut milk and fresh berries for a healthy breakfast.
- Mix popped amaranth seeds with honey or molasses to make a treat known as “alegria” or “joy” in Mexico
- Or try my amaranth grits with my tomato-sauce poached eggs