It’s been a couple of years since I first noticed that my local food coop, the Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany, N.Y., www.hwfc.com, was stocking in the bulk foods department an unusual grain, native to Ethiopia where it is a staple food crop, called teff. As an alternative to using rice or couscous, I decided to cook up a main dish using this exotic grain, which I learned grows well in poor soil conditions.
I was able to obtain information on this unique grain from the website, www.recipetips.com, which noted that “Teff is difficult to find in great quantities anywhere else in the world” other than Ethiopia. The word “teff” which means “lost” in the Amharic language, “refers to the fact that because the seeds are so tiny, they are lost if dropped.” 150 of the tiny seeds are equivalent to the size of one grain of wheat! Because the grain is so small, there is no way to remove the husk, bran and germ from teff seed which means that none of the nutrients are lost as is the case with larger grains that too often have the bran and germ removed during processing. The nutritional label on the bin in the bulk foods department at the Honest Weight Food Coop noted that teff is nutrient dense, with many times the amount of calcium, potassium and other essential minerals found in an equal amount of other grains. It is also rich in fiber and iron and has lysine levels higher than wheat or barley. Although teff seeds may range in color from white to red to brown, with the white seeds “mild” in flavor according to www.recipetips.com, the teff I purchased from the Honest Weight (at a reasonable $2.99 per pound) was a deep brown and when cooked up had a pleasant nutty flavor.
The teff grain was a perfect accompaniment to the long-necked, Asian eggplant called Orient Charm, which was available in the produce department of the Honest Weight. Grown by Hepworth Farm, an organic farm in Milton (Saratoga County), New York, this special eggplant was priced reasonably, coincidentally at the same $2.99 per pound as the teff grain. With garlic and onions from my home garden, plus vine ripen tomatoes from Slack Hollow Farm (an organic farm in Argyle (Washington County), New York [www.slackhollowfarm.com/] available at the Honest Weight at $3.99 per pound, I had inexpensive but very fine ingredients for a wonderful vegetarian meal. (I recommend preparing the eggplant and tomato stew before preparing the teff polenta.)
1 cup teff grains
4 cups water
2 Tbsps olive oil
Bring 4 cups water, with 2 Tbsps olive oil, to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and add 1 cup teff grains. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes while stirring occasionally. As it cooks, the teff grain thickens up until it becomes thick like a porridge or polenta.
Orient Charm Asian Eggplant and Tomato Stew with Onions and Garlic
2 medium sized, long neck Asian eggplants
4 medium sized tomatoes
1 large onion
1 garlic bulb
3 Tbsps olive oil
Couple of shakes of crushed red pepper
Saute onions and the peeled & diced garlic in olive oil for 5-10 minutes over low heat. (I use Napa Valley Naturals organic olive oil, www.napavalleytrading.com. According to the bottle, this extra virgin and organic, first cold pressing, olive oil was “from California’s Sacramento Valley and Argentina’s Cordoba Valley.” [I had purchased the olive oil on sale at the local food co-op for $9.99. The 25.4 ounce bottle, which is regularly priced at $15.99 at the co-op, was a nice bargain at the sale price.] ) Add sliced fresh tomatoes, with a couple of shakes of crushed red pepper and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. A couple of shakes of Simply Organic crushed red pepper, www.simplyorganicfoods.com, adds a little spicy heat. [I like to keep a bottle of crushed red pepper in the cupboard and wait until it goes on sale at the food coop- regularly priced at $4.09, it was a bargain on sale at $2.49.] Add sliced eggplant and simmer for an additional 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Serve the eggplant and tomato stew on the teff polenta, and top with a creamy goat cheese chevre, diced up into small pieces. I use a local, farmstead goat’s milk chevre (which is rich and creamy and contrasts nicely with the grainy teff) from the Painted Goat Farm in Garrattsville (Otsego County), New York [www.paintedgoat.com] also available at the Honest Weight (FWB 10/26/10).