I first learned about fonio, one of Africa’s oldest grains, when Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam started touting its benefits a few years ago. According to Chef Thiam, some varieties of fonio are drought-resistant and can play an important role in addressing hunger in sub-Saharan Africa (similar to millet). In this recipe, I form the fonio—along with potato, alliums, and spices—into balls that are then baked and served with chimichurri, a green sauce packed with fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar.
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 cup finely diced red onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large russet potato (about 1 pound), washed and scrubbed
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon peanut oil
½ cup fonio
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup finely diced yellow onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tablespoon yellow miso
2 cups stemmed chopped kale
Make the chimichurri: In a medium bowl, combine the vinegars, onion, and garlic and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, cilantro, parsley, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to allow the flavors to marry.
Make the balls: Preheat the oven to 400°F. With a fork, pierce the potato all over, then wrap in aluminum foil. Bake until tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool. When the potato is cool enough to handle, peel it, transfer to a bowl, and thoroughly mash with a fork. Set aside.
While the potato is baking, warm 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the fonio and stir until well coated with oil. Add 1 cup water and the salt and stir to combine. Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, then quickly turn the heat to low. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to steam for 10 minutes.
In a small skillet, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the onions and sauté, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it smells fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, liquid aminos, and miso and cook until well combined, about 3 minutes. Stir in the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until just wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture into a food processor. Add the potato and fonio and process until the mixture is smooth.
With clean hands, form the mixture into golf ball–size balls. Transfer to a glass baking dish, using parchment paper to separate the layers. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days before baking.
To bake, preheat the oven to 300°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the balls on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until slightly firm on the outside.
Serve the balls in a pool of chimichurri on small plates.