Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whoa, Black Betty, Amaranth, Whoa, Black Betty, Amaranth...

The wife has to avoid gluten in her diet, as it plays no small amount of havoc with her digestion, and shortly afterwards, the atmosphere in her immediate area.  She's done very well with it, mostly as a result of making most of her own bread with the breadmaker I picked up at an outrageous discount for her. Also helpful is the fact that the health food industry has latched onto "Gluten-free" as the new buzzword.  So lots of people are buying gluten-free products now, under the mistaken impression that they are somehow healthier.  In fact, it has no measureable benefits, save for anyone who has to actively avoid the compound for medical and olfactory reasons. The trend has a hidden benefit for those who do, however; the increase in demand has made the number of products skyrocket, and driven down the price.  Any opportunity to benefit from the gullibility of the public is a plus.

One of the surprises we found in our quest for alternatives is the grain quinoa (Keen-wa).  It comes from South America, and has massive amounts of protein, something grains don't usually have, not to mention enough fiber to clean out a politician.  It cooks exactly like rice, has a great nutty flavor, and can be used in any way you use rice - soup, chili, salads, you name it.  It's good enough that picky me has made it part of my diet.

So a while back, The Wife hears about another grain, amaranth, and bought a bag. According to the package, it cooks like rice as well - add water, simmer and wait. I found it in the pantry and since I was cooking anyway, I figured I'd toss on another pot and cook it up to see what we got.

There are no words for the horror we received.

First off, quinoa absorbs the water ably and swells up three or four times its size, much like the Grinch's heart.  The amaranth did not expand at all, even after letting it cook longer than suggested.  Instead, it exuded what can only be described as mucous, similar to the defensive slime discharge of the hagfish. Quinoa remains light and fluffy after boiling, the amaranth formed a viscous slab at the bottom of the pan, and no amount of stirring would break it up into anything smaller than silly putty-like clumps about the size of a baby's fist.  Dropped into the storage container with an audible thud, they flowed back together into one mass, like the lead character in the videogame Loco Roco, but less quickly, and not nearly as cutely.  The resulting congealed mass looked exactly like the jelly-like seed and water material used to spread on chia-sculptures. 

The smell was unobtrusive, pretty much smelling like...boiled wheat.  As opposed to, say, cous-cous, which is slightly processed  I, already being a very squeamish eater and having a serious issue with textures, could not bear to look at it for extended periods, let alone put it in my mouth.  The Wife, braver than I, tasted it and declared it palatable.  So it was saved, and is now taking up residence in the refrigerator. 

Now, there's every possiblity that I Did It Wrong.  I researched it, and it's not supposed to be rinsed, as quinoa is, so I didn't.  The bag described the cooking process as I related it - boil in water and simmer, so THAT ain't it.  It's possible the bag we had was old, and a bit stale, and perhaps a fresh batch would not react as same.  But unless someone can present serious evidence of why I should give this stuff a second try, it's going in the "no" column, along with using rice flour to bread fried chicken and using agave nectar for anything other than making tequila.


  1. Vin, your account of our amaranth culinary adventure was wittily told, as always! I'm genuinely curious to see what other gluten-free folks like me might suggest for future amaranth uses, as I still think it would make a good hot cereal, at the very least! :-)

    1. The only "hot" think I can see it being good for, potentially is a poultice for bee stings.

  2. I'm confused. Wasn't Amaranth the name of the evil space queen played by Patsy Parsons in the old ROCKY JONES, SPACE RANGER television show? One of those villainesses who wouldn't think twice about burning down an orphanage, but had the hot puppies for the Hero?

    ("Rocky Jones, never again do I want you to land your big rigid spaceship in my warm tight docking port!")

    And I was going to pronounce quinoa "KWI-noah". Fortunately, thanks to Vinnie, I have now escaped certain embarassment during social situations. Now all I need is a social situation.

    Out of curiosity, how are you people in relation to coriander (which is, as far as I've been able to determine, the one herb that absolutely does me in)?

    1. "Out of curiosity, how are you people in relation to coriander "

      I think it's a shame what they did to her in the DCnU revamp - an alien Paris Hilton I didn't need.


  3. Now my fear of Quinoa is calmed. But a new fear of amaranth has arisen in it's wake.
    Thanks and no thanks to you sir.
    SSG Geezer