I was setting up to photograph my wild millet or kabog that I purchased in Cebu last week when I realized I should include some other grains/starches that I also had handy. I have been trying to broaden our base of starches away from just white rice and in stock in the pantry, among other grains/pastas were some couscous, cornmeal or polenta, and of course, the millet or kabog. Couscous is actually a mixture of semolina granules or flour that is made by adding salted water to a bowl of semolina flour and rubbing it against the side of the bowl until this small balls or blobs are formed they are then dried (according to Alan Davidson). Couscous is a pasta of sorts that isnâ€™t kneaded and it steams up nice and fluffy. I like its texture as a change from the everyday white or brown rice that we tend to eat like clockwork. The granules are best steamed in a couscoussier (which I do not have) but I find they do just fine in a regular pot on the stoveâ€¦ A staple in Northern Africa, couscous goes great with saucy tagines or stews and with lots of spice in the form of harissa. The best movie scene I can think off where the actors are eating couscous is in the modern version of â€œSabrinaâ€ where Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond are eating their couscous with their hands in a Moroccan restaurant in New York Cityâ€¦
I also had cornmeal or the makings of polenta in stock. Polenta is made of ground flint corn and is predominantly made in Italy and comes in coarse and fine grades. The corn has been hulled and de-germed and has a long shelf life, according to Rebecca Woodâ€™s book on grains. Polenta is a staple in Northern Italy and frankly, until recently, I always thought of it as a tasteless, sludgy yellow mass that would sit in oneâ€™s stomach like a brick. However, with the right pairing of meat or stew it can be fantastic. Traditionally, polenta is made in an unlined copper kettle called a paiolo and cut with a string (according to Ms. Wood), though I have made it very well with a heavy enameled pot without much effort at all. More interesting for me than the mushy freshly made polenta is the grilled polenta or even fried polenta.
Finally, the last of the three sources of starch that I photographed today was millet. For most of my life, millet equaled birdseed. I didnâ€™t realize that millet is a major humanly edible grain globally and comes from a family of grasses that has hundreds of varieties. For humans, most millet is of the genus Panicum and our own millet is probably closer ( I am guessing) to foxtail millet that grows abundantly in southern China and in other hot arid climates. Millet is an extremely nutritious seed (with niacin, thiamin, phosphorous and zinc besides the proteins) and a great source of protein. Apparently millet spoils relatively quickly so you should buy it fresh and use it within a few weeks of purchaseâ€¦coming up soon will be posts on the local millet (kabog) that I purchased and my attempts to cook budbud kabog without a recipe to guide me (I havenâ€™t figured it out yet, despite three separate attempts!)â€¦