I picked up some amaranth yesterday. I've found some recipes that say you should soak it before cooking, but is that step really necessary?
Not necessary unless it's really old. It tends to dry out when it's not stored the right way. That's been my experience with it anyway! Also, don't try to pop it unless you're in the mood for vacuuming burnt grains..
Soaking grains is recommended for health reasons. Soaking breaks up the phytic acid on the outer layer of the grain. Less phytic acid means easier digestion and more nutrients absorbed.
Neither Lorna Sass nor Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks seems to soak first.
Just curious - how do the recipes that ask you to soak first have you drain the grains? Cheesecloth? They are so tiny!