Before King Corn and Queen Wheat took over the American agricultural throne, sorghum used to be a pretty big deal: we used to enjoy sorghum flour, whole sorghum grains, liquor distilled from sorghum, even sorghum syrup. Sorghum is still a big deal in African countries, where it’s a valuable food crop as well as the basis for making beer. Middle Eastern countries still use it; so do people in India and China.
Luckily for folks Stateside, sorghum is making a comeback here. It’s still a bit elusive to find, but I’ve come across sorghum flour and whole sorghum grains in grocery stores geared toward health/whole foods. I even managed to order sorghum syrup (also called “sorghum molasses”) online. The latter tastes like a cross between blackstrap molasses and maple syrup and makes a tasty topping for pancakes and cinnamon rolls. I’ve found sorghum-based beers, too, and I find that Green’s Quest beer – made from sorghum, millet, rice, and buckwheat – is by far the best gluten-free beer I’ve come across.
Despite being gluten-free, sorghum flour tastes much like wheat flour: it’s mild and has hints of nuttiness. I love to use it in both sweet and savory baked goods. The whole grains taste like an amplified version of the flour and are fantastically chewy and hearty – you can pair them with anything from garlic to curry powder, and you can still taste the sorghum-ness of the dish. Not only that, but they’re the cutest darn grain I’ve ever seen. They look like miniature black-eyed peas: round, cream-colored, and with a little black “eye” on one end. I’m so glad sorghum is back!
Sorghum & Spinach Toss with Chickpeas
Serves 2 for lunch, but you can easily double or triple the recipe. The combination of sorghum and chickpeas makes for quite a hearty dish and also makes great leftovers.
Also note: if you put the sorghum and water in a pot the night before, you can shorten the cooking time by half.
1 cup cooked whole sorghum grains*
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Several handfuls curly spinach
1 cup chickpeas (either canned, drained peas or freshly cooked and drained peas)
Dash of sea salt
Sorghum requires a ratio of 3:1 water to grains, so if you make 1 cup of sorghum, use 3 cups of water; if you make 1/2 cup of sorghum, use 1 1/2 cups water. Place sorghum and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and let cook for an hour. If you soak the sorghum the night before, the grains should cook in 30 minutes rather than 60.
Drizzle a bit of oil into a large saucepan and heat over medium-low for 1 minute. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until garlic is starting to soften. Add several handfuls of spinach – enough to fill the pan – and continue cooking for 5 minutes, gently folding the spinach over until it’s all completely wilted. Stir in chickpeas and a dash of sea salt.
Toss drained sorghum with wilted spinach and serve immediately.
* Cooked sorghum will last for a week in the refrigerator, so feel free to cook a large batch and then enjoy the leftover sorghum for breakfast – just pour in whatever milk you like best (dairy, nut, grain, coconut, etc.), shake on a hint of sea salt, and add a drizzling of maple syrup or honey. Now, THAT’S cereal!