Sorghum. Maybe one day it will have the same cultural cachet as Quinoa. Quinoa is right up there with lattes and arugula as a signifier of foodie culture. It’s been a long climb, but that Peruvian grain has been embraced by the gourmets, the health conscious, the vegans, the gluten free. And it is delicious. I love it.
Sorghum, on the other hand, is grown in the American heartland, and has yet to break out in the hip food scene. It’s an ancient grain, that originated in Africa about 5,000 years ago, and it made it to America on slave ships. Unlike quinoa, which we will pay top dollar to ship from a continent away, sorghum is right here, but because it hasn’t caught on, most of it is fed to livestock or made into ethanol.
For Whole Grains Month, I urge you to give sorghum a try, whether it is sorghum flour, whole grains, or sorghum syrup, if you can find it.
I hope that sorghum will share the spotlight with quinoa in coming years. It’s gluten free, like quinoa, which makes it a good candidate for the next “hot” grain. Sorghum also has the distinction of requiring 1/3 as much water to produce as other comparable crops, so it can be grown in dry areas where other crops would fail. Let’s face it, some parts of the World are becoming drier and hotter, and people need food. The other bonus is that the stalks and leaves provide lots of soil conserving plant matter that can be composted and used for other purposes. Sorghum is sustainable.
We look to quinoa as a high protein grain, and sorghum is no slump in the protein department. A typical serving, cooked up from 1/4 cup uncooked sorghum has 5.5 grams protein, 1/4 cup quinoa has 6. Both have iron and calcium, quinoa a little more calcium, sorghum a little more iron. Both deliver B-Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Today I made two sorghum dishes, one a bowl with whole sorghum, and to follow that, a muffin made from whole grain sorghum flour. It worked out well, since I used the garbanzo beans to make the bowl, and their liquid to make aquafaba for the muffins. I’ve been obsessed with roasted garbanzos lately, so I roasted them up and sprinkled on some coarse salt and smoked paprika. That lead me to Spanish flavors, and it all just came together from there.
Sorghum Bowl with Smoky Roasted Garbanzos and Saffron Aioli
Drizzling a little aioli on the sorghum gives it some pizzazz, without having to work too hard. Once you have some whole sorghum cooked up, keep any leftovers in the fridge and use it throughout the week.
1 1/2 cups cooked sorghum
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzos, drained (1 14.5 ounce can, drained, reserve liquids)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pinch saffron
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash, steamed
a small roasted pepper, sliced
8 pitted kalamata olives
Cook the sorghum, I cooked a cup with 2 1/2 cups water, I brought it all to the boil, put on a lid, reduced the heat to low and simmered it for about 55 minutes. It absorbed all the water and then I let it stand, covered, to continue steaming. It will be firm. If you want it softer, add more water and cook it longer, but it will stay a little crunchy, like wheat berries.
For the garbs, preheat oven to 400 F. Pat dry the beans and spread them on a sheet pan, and drizzle on the olive oil. Toss to coat and roast for about 35 minutes, til crispy but not too hard to chew. Sprinkle with salt and paprika, and toss to coat. Let cool.
For the aioli, mix the mayo, garlic and saffron and stir well. You will have some left over, and it will be great in sandwiches, etc.
For each bowl, mix a dab of aioli into the sorghum, then spread it in the bowl. Arrange spinach, garbanzos, squash, peppers and olives and peppers. Drizzle with aioli and serve.
On to the muffins!
I wanted to honor the vegans by making a vegan and gluten free muffin with whole grain sorghum flour that is actually tasty and tender. This can be a challenge, but I promise you, I couldn’t stop eating these muffins, especially warmed up a little and slathered with some homemade jelly given to me by a talented friend. These muffies feature not just whole grain sorghum flour, but also aquafaba, the latest and greatest of the egg replacers for baking. If you want to learn more about aquafaba, click here: Baking with Aquafaba.
So, to achieve the chemical feat of lifting up a healthful whole grain flour, I decided to whip the aquafaba to meringue-like loftiness, and then fold it into the batter. I hedged my bets with some guar gum and ground flax, which both provide the structure that gluten and eggs give to a standard muffin.
Here’s the whipped aquafaba and sugar:
Some mashed banana gave it some body, and I added dried blueberries for more fruity flavor. Of course, you could add any sort of muffin fruit or nut, it is up to you. Just don’t weigh it down with more than 3/4 cups. I’d stay away from anything too wet, like chopped pears or strawberries.
Sorghum. Say it out loud a few times to practice, because it will be coming to a restaurant menu or ingredient list near you.
Sorghum Muffins with Dried Blueberries
I used Bob’s Red Mill Sorghum Flour, which is widely available. You can also easily grind your own in a Vitamix. I kept this relatively simple, but if you want to add a teaspoon or two of cinnamon and spices, or sub other fruit or nuts for the blueberries. Get crazy and sub chocolate chips for fruit, and these would be divine.
Makes 10 Muffins
1 3/4 cups sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons guar gum
1 large ripe banana, mashed
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup garbanzo water, drained from one can beans
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup dried blueberries
Preheat the oven to 375 F, and line 10 cups of a muffin tin with muffin papers.
In a large bowl, combine the sorghum flour, tapioca flour, baking powder, salt and guar gum, and whisk to mix.
In small bowl, combine the banana, flax, melted coconut oil and vanilla and stir. If the banana is cold, the coconut oil may harden, you can pop the mixture in the microwave or warm it over a bowl of hot water to soften it to stir-able consistency.
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the garbanzo water and powdered sugar. On low speed, mix until the sugar is dissolved, then raise the speed to high and beat for about 8 minutes. It will become thick and shiny like meringue, and hold soft peaks. 9see photo above)
Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and add about half of the whipped garbanzo mixture and stir to mix well. Fold in the remaining garbanzo mixture, gently turning the batter to keep the bubbles from deflating. When mixed, quickly stir in the berries.
Scoop 1/4 cup portions of the batter into the lined cups and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
Bake for about 35 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with only moist crumbs attached. Cool on a rack.