Amaranth, an ancient crop, is making a comeback with farmers in its native Mexico. Unlike most grains (it’s actually a pseudocereal), nutty, slightly peppery amaranth is an excellent source of the amino acid lysine, making it a complete protein. Naturally gluten free, amaranth is also rich in fiber, calcium, iron, and magnesium. When cooked, the whole grain softens on the inside while retaining crunch on the outside. It’s sold as flour, too.

Cook. Because it’s quite absorbent, use a lot of water—2 1/2 or 3 cups—to cook 1 cup amaranth grain. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour off any excess liquid; then combine cooked amaranth with sautéed vegetables, or serve as porridge with coconut milk, toasted nuts, and chopped fruit.

Pop. Heat a large pot over high heat; add 2–3 tablespoons amaranth, reduce heat to medium, and stir until most of the grains have popped. (It burns easily, so pop larger amounts in batches.) Eat it straight, or mix with chopped fresh dates, form into balls, and roll in shredded coconut.

Bake. Substitute about 25 percent amaranth flour in your favorite gluten-free baking mix to add a nutritional kick to cookies and muffins.

Aztec Corn Cakes

Tasty when topped with mole sauce or pear salsa. Serves 5.

1 cup yellow cornmeal

¾ cup amaranth flour

1½ cups vegetable broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup diced onion

¼ cup diced Anaheim pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons white wine

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

1. Combine yellow cornmeal and amaranth flour in a large bowl. Bring vegetable broth to a boil; pour hot broth over amaranth mixture. Stir and set aside; consistency will be thick, like masa.

2. In olive oil over medium heat, sauté onion, Anaheim pepper, and garlic until softened. Stir in white wine,
chili powder, salt, ground cumin, and ground pepper. Fold vegetable mixture into amaranth mixture.

3. In a hot skillet with a little oil, scoop batter into mounds, flatten slightly, and brown on both sides. Serve warm.

PER SERVING (2): 198 cal, 5g fat (2g mono, 2g poly, 1g sat), 0mg chol, 5g protein, 34g carb, 4g fiber, 174mg sodium