Ahhh… the fresh, herbaceous flavors of a spring roll in a crisp salad with the hearty addition of a whole grain.
There are certain amazing flavor combinations that are so winning that they can define dishes and work together with a myriad of other ingredients. In Greek cooking, you can combine feta cheese and black olives in salads, sandwiches, baked dishes and even quiches and almost guarantee a delicious outcome.
As I’ve learned how to make simple Vietnamese food, I’ve determined that the trio of cilantro, thai basil and mint with fresh lime juice create a similar super troupe of flavor. I’ve used the refreshing combo in spring rolls, noodle dishes and salads and I’m always pleased with the results.
During the past few years, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of whole grains including wheat berries, bulgar, teff and quinoa. I’ve had bags of millet in the cupboard in the past but found I was a bit unfairly prejudiced against it when I read that it was the main ingredient in bird food. All of a sudden, those little light yellow spheres looked like bags of seed instead of a reasonable dinner consideration.
Millet has an ancient history, far before it became an American bird feeder favorite. It was revered as a sacred crop in ancient China and was even mentioned in the journals of Marco Polo. (Dear Diary, The noble Great Kaan must be a foodie too, we chatted over a delectable bowl of millet this evening…) The gluten-free grain is particularly high in fiber and protein and I prefer the taste a bit better than quinoa, which touts similar health benefits.
If you can find it, use Thai basil over Italian basil. The flavor is less sweet and has a bit of a spicy note. The leaves are a bit darker, smaller and less dimpled than Italian basil. You can find Thai basil in some grocery stores or in specialty Asian stores. I have grown it in my back yard for the past few years and it lasts well into the fall.
I’m always on the hunt for salads that I can made in big batches and use for a few days as lunch. Cabbage holds up well in the fridge before adding dressing so this salad was a good candidate. I mixed all the ingredients together and tossed it with dressing just before serving.
Millet Spring Roll Salad
Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill
Makes 8 servings.
1 cup millet
2 cups water
1 tsp sea salt
1 carrot, shredded
4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup thai basil, chopped
1/3 cup mint, chopped
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp siracha chili sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
Our water and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Add millet, reduce temperature to medium-low and simmer until grains are soft, about 20 minutes.
While millet cooks, whisk together all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
Drain any excess liquid off the cooked millet. In a large bowl, combine millet, carrot, cabbage, pepper and corn. Add dressing and toss well. Chill for 1 hour.
Add green onions and herbs and mix well. Garnish with sesame seeds.
Note: If you don’t want to eat all at once, you can mix all the salad ingredients together without dressing, including herbs, onions and sesame seeds. Store dressing separately and toss as needed. The salad mixture will last for at least 2-3 days in the fridge in a ziplock bag.