As we head into holiday entertaining and craziness, don't forget about popcorn! I am NOT talking about microwave popcorn, I'm talking about the real deal, popped in a pan, which takes about 5 minutes to make and tastes 50 million times - maybe 100 million times - better. When you're done, you have a bowlful of fragrant crunchiness ready to be tarted up for a party (or plopped in front of the TV with a glass of wine aka dinner).
When I was a kid, we were butter-and-salt purists, preferring plenty of both. Don't get me wrong - browned butter with sea salt to this day makes up 80% of my popcorn consumption. I make it for my son's friends, I set it out at our pool for swim parties, I make a batch after a night out with the girls. But it's great fun, and almost as easy, to play around a bit with creative flavor combinations, which are both addictive and gorgeous, and tend to blow guests away for very little effort.
Recipe(s) for Pumpkin Seed/Brown Butter/Crispy Sage, Bacon/Caraway Seed/Bay Leaf, and Curry Powder/Honey/Lime Zest popcorn (and other ideas too) at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.
As someone who spends a lot of time in grocery stores, it's hard to deny the primal thrill of foraging for edibles in the great outdoors. It's similar to the pleasure in picking tomatoes I've grown myself, except a bit more powerful. There is, in fact, a Hierarchy of Food-Gathering Satisfaction, which exists completely in my own mind, and goes something like this: Foraging (hunting, fishing), gardening, farm stands, farmers markets, co-ops, grocery stores. The thrill of the chase apparently persists even in the soul of a city girl.
Especially when you can forage right in the city! There are stinging nettles to be found in almost anyone's yard, which you well know if you've ever grabbed one to yank out of a flower bed (ouch). Next time you see them, put on some gloves, pull them up, then save them to make salt, an idea I'm stealing from my friends Kathy Yerich and Scott Pampuch, who both made and shared nettle salt in the last couple of weeks.
Nettle salt is easy to make and deliciously savory, with a slightly grassy flavor that is lovely with corn, eggs, butter, and bread. Kathy made hers by pulsing fresh nettle leaves with sea salt in a food processor, then spreading the mixture to dry on a baking sheet. Her salt was bright green and pungent, a gorgeous topping for the pizzas we Minnesota Food Bloggers made at our recent gathering at Kitchen in the Market with Zoe Francois. Scott made his by first drying the nettles before pulsing with coarse sea salt. His version had more texture and a softer flavor, which was amazing sprinkled on the popcorn tossed with brown butter he set out at his In Search of Food party at Fulton Beer.
Make it both ways! Recipe for Nettle Salt at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.