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Savor the Sorghum: Getting More Whole Grains in Your Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-Free Sorghum Tabbouleh

Gluten-Free Sorghum Tabbouleh

Hearty, wholesome Tabbouleh is typically made with bulgur (wheat) but whole grain sorghum is a perfect substitute because it has about the same size and chewiness. When combined with flavorful herbs, chopped vegetables, nuts, and then tossed with a flavorful dressing, it’s perfect for entertaining or everyday family fare. 

Sorghum Tabbouleh with Shrimp and Sherry Vinaigrette on Mixed Greens

Eat more whole grains.” We all hear that mantra, but what are you doing about it? This whole grain dish may become one of your all-time favorite recipes. It is certainly one of mine.

To cook the sorghum:

1              cup uncooked whole grain sorghum (soaked overnight in water to cover)

3/4           teaspoon sea salt, divided

2              cups water

Sherry Vinaigrette Dressing:

2              tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3              tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1              tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/8           teaspoon white pepper

Vegetables:

1/4           cup shelled raw pumpkin seeds or pine nuts

1              English or hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and chopped

3              green onions, chopped

1              small red bell pepper, chopped, or 12 grape tomatoes, halved

1              small yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2           cup cooked edamame (or lightly-steamed peas or asparagus)

1/2           cup chopped seasonal fruit (figs, pears, apples, oranges, or dried cranberries)

1/2           cup chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish

1/2           cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4           cup chopped fresh mint

1/4           cup crumbled feta cheese or queso fresco (optional)

Mixed Greens

12            cooked large whole shrimp, peeled (or more to taste)

[1] Drain the soaked sorghum and discard water. In a heavy medium saucepan with a lid, combine sorghum, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 2 cups water. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat, simmering for 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a strainer and drain well. Set aside to cool.

[2] Make the dressing: In a screw-top jar, shake the lemon juice, oil, vinegar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and pepper until thoroughly blended and creamy. Set aside.

[3] Toast pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

[4] In a large bowl, combine the sorghum and the vegetables and toss to blend. Add dressing and toss until all ingredients are well coated. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

[5] Arrange mixed greens on a large platter, top with tabbouleh, arrange shrimp on top, and serve, garnished with fresh parsley. Makes 6 servings.

Where Does Sorghum Come From?

Sorghum is an ancient grain that has been used for over 8,000 years in Africa and Egypt and is increasingly available in the United States. It is the 5th most important cereal grain in the world. Growing up on a farm in eastern Nebraska, we raised sorghum but called it milo. It is grown primarily in the south-central states (Nebraska to Texas), but some is grown in other states such as California. Even as a small child, I could distinguish the stalks of sorghum in our fields from other tall-growing crops like soybeans or corn but I also knew that it was only used for livestock feed. Since then, growers have modified the grain to be “food-grade” and it is now a welcome, nutritious addition to our gluten-free diet. Sorghum flour is readily available in natural food stores and some grocery stores. I order the whole grain online in 1-pound bags from Shiloh Farms or the Gluten-Free Mall.

Why should you care about fiber?

March is National Nutrition Month, but anyone on a gluten-free diet should be aware of nutrition every month of the year because most of our foods are not fortified the way wheat food is.  The importance of fiber got a huge boost from a National Institutes of Health-funded study (led by the National Cancer Institute) to be published in the June 14, 2011, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine that concludes, “a diet rich in dietary fiber from whole plant foods may provide significant health benefits.”

What kind of benefits? A significantly lower risk of dying, particularly from cardiovascular disease and infectious and respiratory disease. Researchers also found that the most significant benefits came from the fiber in whole grains (and beans, more about beans in a later blog). Whole grain sorghum contains lots of fiber—10 grams in every half-cup, so it is an excellent way to work toward the recommended 25 to 38 grams per day. Each half-cup equals a serving but most of us will eat closer to 1 cup at a meal so that is two servings out of the recommended three to five daily servings of whole grains.

How Do I Serve This Dish?

I serve this dish year-round, but mostly in summer, when big, beautiful platters of food are perfect for outdoor get-togethers. Sometimes I make it Greek-style, with lots of feta, olives, tomatoes, and oregano. But most of the time, I use this recipe and simply vary the fruit (cook’s secret: a little sweetness, in the form of fruit, enhances and contrasts with the other flavors).

It is especially pretty when served on your showiest platter, but you can also just heap it into a large serving bowl for family-style meals.

If sorghum isn’t in your future, simply replace it with cooked brown rice or quinoa. It won’t have the same mouth-feel, but will be delicious anyway.  If you don’t have edamame, use lightly-steamed green peas or asparagus. I also love to use marinated artichokes. If you don’t have sherry vinegar, use red wine vinegar or whatever vinegar you have on hand. Not a fan of shrimp? Use cooked chicken. The shrimp can be omitted for vegetarians and vegans.

Full-disclosure: I’ve been using sorghum for over 15 years and everyone knows that it is my “go-to” flour for baking because it contains more protein and fiber than other flours, such as brown rice. But this spring I took my devotion to sorghum one step further by becoming the media spokesperson for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. Their goal is to increase the use of sorghum in the United States and I’m proud to represent them in this very worthwhile effort. Just wanted you to know…..

So, if you’re intrigued by sorghum, here’s the plan:

[1] Order a pound of Shiloh Farms whole grain sorghum from www.ShilohFarms.com or www.GlutenFreeMall.com

[2] Soak the sorghum overnight in cool water (no need to refrigerate). Cook the next day.

[3] Make the tabbouleh, or enjoy the cooked sorghum for breakfast or as a side dish with lunch or dinner.

Enjoy!!!

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