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Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy's Kitchen Prescription LLC




Fragrant Millet Pilaf


Fluffy grain pilafs have been enjoyed throughout Central Asia, Turkey, the Middle East, and India since the 4th Century BCE. Traditionally, pilafs are a rice or wheat dish, simmered in stock and fragrant with sweet spices, vegetables, and sometimes meats. Every village put its own spin on this ancient dish. Here, let’s use common (proso) millet, instead of rice, and simmer it in a light vegetable stock scented with a lovely aromatic Persian spice blend, dried berries, and nuts. Millet pilaf makes a delightfully festive side dish for any meal and party table. Saffron is optional but if you have some, it is lovely to add its gentle fragrance and gorgeous color to the pilaf.


Millet carries are much lower carbon footprint than rice, whose water requirements and methane gas release make it less than ideal in a warming world. Millet is greener than wheat as well, is drought-tolerant and well adapted to arid landscapes. There are many varieties of millet, and they are all richer in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and enzymes than whole rice varieties. So, enjoy getting to know this nutty, nutritious gluten-free grain.


Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes to rest

Serves 3 to 5


1 cup from 2 large shallots, peeled and sliced

¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth or broth to deglaze pan

Big pinch saffron, crumbled and steeped in hot water (optional)

1 cup millet, rinsed

3 cups no-sodium vegetable stock, hot

2 carrots, grated

2 teaspoons Persian Spice Blend (Advieh Berenj), or to taste

1 cup mixed dried berries like barberries, gooseberries, goldenberries, cranberries, green Indian or golden raisins, mulberries

1/3 cup whole shelled pistachio nuts and sliced almonds

1/3 cup shiro (mild, white) miso or to taste (optional)

Garnish with parsley and mint leaves, chopped


To prepare the saffron tea, take a pinch of the saffron pistils and crumble them into a small bowl. Pour a tablespoon of boiling water over them and steep to create a tea.


In another pot bring the vegetable broth to a boil, cover, and maintain at a very low simmer. Alternatively, heat in a microwave for 3 minutes, then cover to keep hot.


Use the coarse side of a box grater to grate the carrots.


Heat a medium heavy-bottomed stainless saucepan for 2 minutes on medium-low. Add the sliced shallots and dry sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. The shallots will release their water and begin to darken the pan.  As they begin to adhere to the pan, deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of wine, vermouth, or broth, scraping up the caramelized shallot sugars from the pan. Stir in the rinsed millet, the advieh berenj, and the saffron tea, if using.


Stir in the hot broth and miso, if using, dissolving the miso throughout the mix. Stir in the grated carrots. Bring to a gentle simmer, lower the heat slightly and cover. Cook the pilaf for 10 minutes. Taste to correct any seasonings as you like.


Now add the mixed dried berries. Cover and cook another 5 minutes before adding the nuts. Cook for a final 5 minutes. The millet should have absorbed all its liquid and be tender and light. Remove from the heat, keep covered, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.


Remove the cover. Fluff the pilaf with a fork to gently separate the grains. Cover until use and serve warm.  Plate individually or in a warmed serving dish. Garnish with the chopped fresh herbs.


Fragrant Millet Pilaf

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