As author Maria Speck cites in her cookbook, "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals" (Ten Speed Press, 2011), the cultivation of millet as a whole grain can be traced as far back as 10,000 years ago. But its versatility and ability to cook quickly put it squarely in the camp of such modern staples as polenta and couscous.
"Saganaki" refers to the two-handled skillet that Greeks traditionally use to make and serve one-pot dishes.
This recipe calls for ouzo or another anise-flavored liqueur, but if you'd rather omit the alcohol, soak 1 whole star anise in 1/3-cup very hot water for 10 minutes, then add the water and anise to the pot instead of the liqueur. Remember to discard the star anise before serving.
Adapted from a recipe in Speck's "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals."
For the millet:
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup millet
1 bay leaf
Pinch fine sea salt
For the saganaki and shrimp:
1 small yellow onion
1 small serrano or Thai bird's-eye chili pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup (about 8) pimiento-stuffed green olives
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound shell-on, uncooked jumbo (u-16) shrimp
28 ounces canned, crushed, no-salt-added tomatoes, plus their juices
4 ounces feta cheese, preferably sheep's milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur (for substitution, see headnote)
Leaves from 6 to 8 stems flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
For the millet: Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the millet, bay leaf and salt; once the water returns to a boil, reduce to medium-low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until just about all of the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat; let sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then uncover and discard the bay leaf.
While the millet is cooking, prepare the saganaki and shrimp: Finely chop the onion. Stem and seed the pepper, then mince. Crush the garlic. Cut the olives in half crosswise.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, garlic and salt; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the tomato paste and let it cook for 1 minute.
While that mixture is cooking, run a small serrated knife along the back of each shrimp, splitting it to remove the vein.
Add the tomatoes and their juices to the onion mixture; increase the heat to medium-high to bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook (uncovered) for 3 minutes. Stir in the cooked millet and the olives. Remove from the heat.
Stir the feta cheese into the pot; cover so the cheese softens.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp lightly with salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes; the shrimp should turn opaque and pick up a little golden color. While the shrimp is cooking, mince the parsley.
Reduce the heat to medium; carefully add the ouzo to the shrimp and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring to coat evenly. Remove from the heat.
Divide the saganaki mixture among individual plates; top with equal amounts of the shrimp, then garnish with the parsley. Serve hot.
Nutrition per serving: 570 calories, 35g protein, 45g carbohydrates, 21g fat, 6g saturated fat, 200mg cholesterol, 970mg sodium, 7g dietary fiber, 10g sugar.