July 3rd, 2008
Last weekend I went to the booksigning at Herbivore to meet Hannah Kaminsky and buy her book, My Sweet Vegan. Always on the lookout for new dessert inspiration, she has some fun ideas and neat combos (wasabi chocolate cupcakes? I’ll let you know). But today I wanted to try her granola recipe. I have a standby that I love and use all the time and wanted to see how it compared. It called for TVP, which seems like a fun new addition. I always intend to follow the recipe right the first time, but am either too lazy to go to the store again or…well, I don’t want to go to the store again. The recipe calls for puffed millet. I have millet. I think I can puff it. I tried to, at least. I tried with a hot dry pan and burnt it. I heated oil and did popcorn style and just fried it (still crunchy, not puffy). I tried with cold oil and heating slowly. No dice.
So I subbed in a different puffy grain, one that is a successful and easy popper, the humble amaranth. In Peru, the Quechua word for amaranth is kiwicha (kee-wee-chah), which is pretty cute sounding, and the puffed version is kiwicha pop. It was available all over Peru, in big bags, usually just dry and styrofoamy. Locals would mix it with honey and sometimes cinnamon, making a tasty protein rich snack. Amaranth is a tiny seed, also called pigweed (I found that in the roadside in botany field trips…who would have known they are the same). I have a feeling it’s a different species than the ones at the edge of school grounds. The edible grain version is a complete protein and can help reduce blood pressure, lower high cholesterol and is heart-healthy. Take that, Cheerios! Plus it’s fast growing and has a high yield and is a pretty tolerant plant. So if you need some forgiveness, look to the kiwicha.
To pop amaranth, it’s really easy. You need a pan with a lid, a stove that can get hot (hooray for my gas stove in my apartment. it makes life easier) and amaranth. I find mine in bulk at the food co-op but you can find it in more and more grocery stores. Look near the quinoa, maybe it’s hiding. Keep in mind amaranth quadruples in size when popped but you really can only do a little at a time, unless you have a very wide pan. For a standard small sauce or saute pan, I use about a tablespoon at a time. Don’t crowd them.
How to Pop Kiwicha
1. Heat pan of choice over flame until REALLY hot (but don’t burn your pan).
2. When hot, add spoonful of amaranth, cover pot and once it starts popping (it will sound like popcorn) lift it about an inch over the flame (and turn the heat down). It could burn if you keep it in such direct contact with the heat. I like to shake the pan in a horizontal fashion until the popping dies down. This usually takes 15-30 seconds.
3. Once the popping dies down, uncover and transfer the puffs to a bowl or whatever container you want. If you leave it in the pan, it might burn. Repeat until you have as much as you need.
You don’t need to add oil to the pan like in popcorn because amaranth has a pretty high oil content in the seed and it’s enough to just come in contact with a hot surface to go POP!
I popped my kiwicha and substituted that for the puffed millet in the granola and all was well. I also snuck in a little buckwheat crispies and changed the fruit called for in the recipe. I used dehydrated bananas, apples and cherries. The granola came out great and tasty, but it has a bit too much sugar for my liking. I wasn’t raised on any sort of sugar cereals (grape nuts? anyone?) so I like my granola to be barely sweetened. I’m going to stick to my personal recipe but add in the TVP and kiwicha pop, what great protein-rich additions to a granola. Great recipe, Hannah! It was easy and yummy and beautiful.