I have been feeling less than fabulous of late. Sleep deprivation will do that to a person. As will seeing chronic holes in your mismatched socks and big circles under your eyes. And making sweatpants your [fashion] statement of choice past 7 PM. And subsisting on cabbage and beans. (And pizza, lots of pizza, pizza for days.)
And just when you thought things couldn’t get less sexy, here I am about to introduce a millet burger to you.
Millet is not sexy. You can find it in big bulk bins at co-op grocery stores that smell of patchouli and righteousness. Is it healthy? Yes. Interesting? Perhaps. Alluring? Not bloody likely.
Especially if you overcook it, which is what happened when I let mine sit a little too long on the stovetop. It turned into a bit of a mush. Mush is decidedly not attractive.
But then things took a turn. For the better. (For the millet, not for myself, mind you. In the interest of full disclosure, I probably had on some form of leisure wear at the time.)
It turned out, the "overcooked" millet held together quite easily when I clumped it. So the mush got mixed with some pantry spices and a few … wait for it … Italian prune plums, forming some version of a Middle Eastern-esque burger by way of A Plum By Any Other. A fine-looking burger, in fact, that held its shape quite handsomely.
The plums, though admittedly a bit past season, add a hint of acidity and play off the sweetness of the currants, working well with the warm spices. And the mint yogurt sauce brings everything home, ultimately making for one fabulous sandwich.
A sandwich that—try as it might—still can’t make you look stunning in ratty socks and grey sweatpants. But it can help make you happy. And healthy. And perhaps even a little more interesting. All of which just might help to bring sexy back.
Spiced Millet Burgers with a Mint Yogurt Sauce
For the burgers
1 cup dry millet
the juice of two limes
4-5 tbsp olive oil, plus more for sautéing the burgers
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp tsp cumin
3 Italian prune plums, chopped into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup dried currants
¾ cup walnuts, chopped
2 tsp capers (drained from their brine)
¼ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
a pinch of red chili flakes
salt and black pepper, to taste
For the yogurt sauce (makes enough for about four burgers)
4 tbsp sheep’s milk yogurt
1 tbsp diced red onion
a pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ cup mint leaves, minced
3 cardamom pods, smashed with seeds ground and pods removed (or add a pinch of ground cardamom)
a generous pinch salt
Cook the millet by adding it to a medium-sized saucepan with 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt; bring the mixture to a boil, then cover it and simmer for about thirty minutes until it is fully cooked; let the cooked millet sit, covered, for about 5 minutes before fluffing it with a fork (it will appear a little sticky).
While the millet is cooking, combine together the lime juice, oil, and spices. When the millet is ready, pour the lime dressing over the millet and add in the chopped plums, currants, walnuts, capers, mint, and chili flakes; add salt and pepper and taste to adjust for seasoning. (The mixture should taste ready to eat, so season it until you like how it tastes.) Add the egg and stir to fully combine all the ingredients. Shape the mixture into patties about the size of a quarter pounder. Let the burgers chill for 15-30 minutes in the refrigerator to help them stay together during the cooking.
While the burgers are chilling, combine all the yogurt sauce ingredients. Taste and adjust for seasoning, as needed.
When the burgers are ready, heat a sauté pan on medium high heat; add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan so that the burgers won’t stick (about a tablespoon of oil, give or take). Cook the burgers until golden brown on one side, flip them, and then cook the burgers until golden brown on the other side; adjust the heat as needed to prevent scorching. (It should take roughly 10 minutes or so to cook the burgers throughout and you will probably need to cook them in two batches.)
Serve the burgers on sliced focaccia. (I used Iggy’s roasted onion focaccia). Top with arugula and a dollop of yogurt sauce. (I also added a green tomato slice to the mix, but they might be hard to find now, as well. I'm a wee bit behind on this posting.)
Makes enough for 8-10 burgers
-Millet is a gluten free whole grain (though not if you put it on a sandwich). It can be prepared to be fluffy, like rice pilaf, or creamy, like polenta. Millet’s mild flavor makes it easy to pair. It is also high in magnesium and offers up a good dose of antioxidants. Now, antioxidants ... antioxidants are sexy.
-You can substitute plain yogurt for the sheep’s milk variety, though I’d go with whole milk yogurt if you can, since it's the only fat you'll have for the sauce. You'll have more burgers than yogurt sauce, but the burgers can also be treated as a starchy side, like you would a potato pancake.
-You could try substituting two ripe, regular-sized plums for the prune plums. They might be a bit more tart, but that doesn't mean they won't work.