Dipping into the obscure this month in my Year of Whole Grains series, meet “Miss July”: Sorghum. This one’s a complete (and welcome) newcomer for me. Its sole downside, as far as I can tell, is its homely moniker. Sorghum. It sounds more like cough syrup or an ingredient in shelf-stable pudding than a mega-wholesome, toothsome, appealing whole grain.
I first learned about sorghum last year at a nutrition conference in Houston where the folks at Bob’s Red Mill waxed poetic about the charms of this gluten-free grain. Its origins lie in Africa, although today it’s eaten in many regions of the world. The grain, which looks a little like white peppercorns, is eaten whole, ground into flour for baking, and used to make beer and other alcoholic beverages. Here in the US, sorghum syrup is popular in parts of the south where it’s drizzled over pancakes, grits and biscuits. A less glamourous tidbit about sorghum is that it’s used to feed cattle as well as produce ethanol. On a more playful note, sorghum reportedly pops like corn when heated in an oil-slicked pot (which I’ve yet to manage succesfully…any tips are most welcome).
Nutritionally, sorghum delivers a generous amount of fiber and iron. Some research shows a cholesterol-lowering effect, and certain varieties are thought to be high in antioxidants. In other words, it’s all good.
And these Burrito Bowls? They’re all good too (if you’ve been following my “dessert trail” on Instagram, you’d know I’m overdue for a dose of good).
The recipe takes all the flavorful fixings of a burrito and serves them up in a bowl, no tortilla required. Cilantro and lime-spiked sorghum is the foundation for these south-of-the-border bowls. From there, you add in beans, vegetables, creamy avocado, salsa, and cheese. It’s the sort of supper that can be adapted at will: add cooked chicken or steak, swap out black beans for pinto, lean on whatever vegetables are in season or in your fridge. You can also use quinoa, barley, or brown rice in place of sorghum.
But do try sorghum. It may not have the prettiest name in the pantry, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Sorghum is sold in the grain section and bulk bins of some specialty food stores and organic markets. You can also buy in online at Bob's Red Mill. Alternatively, other whole grains such as brown rice, farro, or barley may be substituted. The cooking time and ratio of grain to water will vary.
- 1 cup sorghum
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 juicy lime)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups cooked, warmed black beans (1 16-ounce can)
- 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables such as zucchini, peppers, corn, or broccoli (warm)
- 1 large ripe avocado, sliced
- Garnishes: Favorite salsa, crumbled Cotija cheese or grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, sour cream
- Put the sorghum and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Drop the heat until the water simmers, cover with a lid and simmer until the sorghum is tender with no starchy bite, about 1 hour. If the water dries out while cooking, add another quarter cup and continue cooking until done.
- When the sorgum is cooked, drain off any water and return sorghum to the pot. Add the cilantro, scallions, lime juice, butter, cumin, and salt. Stir well.
- Divide the sorghum into four bowls. Top with warm black beans, warm vegetables, and sliced avocado. Garnish generously and as desired with salsa, cheese, and sour cream.