Serves 8 / The first time I tried amaranth, I hated it. Then I realized that its unique earthy flavor and odd texture require specific treatment, as in this Mexican-oriented dish. I think of it as a sort of Aztec polenta. Ingredient tip: You only need one chipotle in adobo for this recipe, but purée the rest from the can (strain out seeds) and serve alongside for extra heat. Serving tip: This dish has a loose consistency, so serve in wide bowls. Shrimp makes a nice partner.

1 cup amaranth
3 cups water
1 low-sodium vegetable bouillon cube (to make 2 cups broth)
1 dried ancho chile pepper, washed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 chipotle in adobo sauce
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic
8 ounces large button mushrooms, washed and quartered
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions (7-8 green onions), sliced, white and light green parts only
1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 ripe avocados, cut in 1/2-inch dice

1. Place amaranth, water, bouillon cube, chile pepper, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and cook until water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes more. The mixture will be fairly gooey, although grains will be slightly crunchy. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Place chipotle in a blender along with onion, tomatoes, and garlic. Purée until smooth.

3. Heat mushrooms and olive oil in a large sauté pan until beginning to sizzle, shaking pan from time to time. Add chipotle-tomato mixture and stir well. Cook until a thick sauce has formed and is nearly dry. Add amaranth and stir well. Continue cooking until mixture resembles polenta—a thick, dense mass. Remove from heat. Add scallions, cilantro, lime juice, and avocados, stirring. Serve in wide bowls.

PER SERVING: 214 cal, 44% fat cal, 11g fat, 2g sat fat, 0mg chol, 6g protein, 26g carb, 7g fiber, 129mg sodium

As a former personal chef, Alan Roettinger's signature achievement has been inventing dishes that are both healthy and palate thrilling. His new book is Omega-3 Cuisine (Book Publishing, 2008).

View a handy guide to cooking grains here...