Eat Good Food

Heirloom Popcorn (plus a popcorn balls recipe!)

Popcorn is irresistible and so it has been for some time. Long before movie night microwave bags, popcorn was a savory snack and cultural symbol throughout the Americas. Domesticated by Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples in 5,000 B.C.E., popcorn is one of the oldest corns still cultivated today. Archeologists have even unearthed intact popped kernels in a New Mexican cave that date back 4,000 years!

“Pop” is one of six types of corn. Its small, dense kernels are full of flavor and “pop” when heated. Since the introduction of Orville Redenbacher’s “Gourmet Popping Corn” in the 1960s, most commercial popcorns are hybrid varieties. Heirloom popcorn varieties are strains of popcorn whose traits have been maintained over time. These varieties safeguard unique flavors and textures that otherwise would have been lost to commercialization.

Eating heirloom popcorn is a way to connect to history. The multicolor kernels are the visual signs that the popcorn will taste different. Although they still pop into white, fluffy morsels, heirloom varieties have complex flavors. Of course, you can still add butter, but it is also refreshing to taste the specialty snack with a diversity of seasonings.

Once you’ve made heirloom popcorn at home, try this simple recipe for popcorn balls featuring Steen’s Cane Syrup.

Steen’s Popcorn Balls
Yields 3 dozen

1  cup sugar
1 ⅓  cups Steen’s cane syrup
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 quarts popped corn, lightly salted (try SHED Heirloom Popcorn)
¾  cup roasted salted peanuts (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
¼  teaspoon baking soda

Prepare your work surface with waxed or parchment paper. Combine popcorn and peanuts and large bowl and set aside.

Melt sugar, syrup, ⅔ cup water, vinegar, and salt over medium heat in a saucepan. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until mixture reaches 260 degrees (use a candy thermometer) and be sure it does not boil over. Remove from heat and stir in butter and baking soda. The mixture will foam.

Pour  ⅔ of syrup over popcorn mixture (set remaining ⅓ of syrup on very low heat) and mix well with a wooden spoon. Lather hands with butter and form mixture into balls, working quickly before the syrup hardens. Stir in remaining syrup if the balls do not hold together

Set popcorn balls on prepared surface and let cool. Serve once cooled, or wrap individually in waxed paper and enjoy later.

Recipe adapted from Julia Moskin and Kim Severson’s recipe on cooking.nytimes.com.

Eat Good Food

Recipe: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

This soup has an irresistible, slightly smoky quality; the flavors are deep and earthy with some sweetness from the potatoes.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups peeled and diced sweet potato, 1/4 inch diced
3 cups cooked black beans
3 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3-4 cups vegetable stock, depending on how thick you want your soup

Heat olive oil in a large clay bean pot (or heavy dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onions, a pinch of salt and stir for 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add sweet potato, black beans, and all the spices. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

Add stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are cooked through.

Let soup cool and then blend the remaining soup together using an immersion blender. Heat soup when ready to serve with your favorite garnishes: cilantro, red onion, avocado, tortilla strips, salsa, etc.

Eat Good Food

Mexican Iced Horchata Recipe

In Mexico and other parts of the world, tasty drinks called aguas frescas often accompany meals. Spanish for “cool waters’ aguas frescas are refreshing non-alcoholic drinks made from fruits, grains, flowers, or seeds blended with sugar and water. Horchatas, also called aguas de horchata are made with rice, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. A great balance for spicy foods, enjoy this served over ice.

Horchata
Serves 4-6

1⁄3 cup long grain rice
1 piece Mexican cinnamon, 1-inch
2 strips lime (1-inch) or lemon zest plus grated lime zest, for garnish
1 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups water

Pulverize the rice in a blender or spice grinder until it has a flour-like texture. Set aside in a bowl.

Add cinnamon, lime zest, and almonds to the pulverized rice. Add 2 cups of water and stir. Cover and let the mixture sit overnight.

The next day, blend mixture in a blender until smooth. Add 2 cups of water and mix.

Strain into a pitcher using a sieve. Stir in sugar and vanilla.

Serve over ice and garnish with lime zest.

Eat Good Food

Semolina Pasta Made Simple

When necessary, flour and water make paste. When inspired, they make pasta. And when the flour is semolina, all that is needed for transformation is an emphasis on less. Scarsa — scant — is the word to remember.

At a cooking school in Florence, students are each given two cups of semolina flour and told to mound it gently. They are handed one cup of tepid tap water and told not to use it all. Scarsa, the instructor says. When the pasta rests, they drink wine. When the pasta cooks, they drink wine. When the pasta is sauced, they drink wine. That’s how easy it is. It’s not magic; it’s just flour and water.

This is how it’s done:

Mound two cups of semolina flour like a small temple onto a clean cutting board.

Slowly add tiny amounts from one cup of still water, incorporating it into the flour as you go. The dough should hold together just barely.

For ease, break the mixture into two balls. Knead each one, intent on getting the water from the dough, using the base of your palm to press it out, for less than five minutes.

The dough will have a velvety texture, with the sand-like roughness of the flour resolved. There should still be water in the measuring cup.

Wrap each ball in plastic and let rest at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. (Cue the wine.)

Remove pasta balls from the fridge and, using a knife, slice each into several circles.

If using a hand-cranked pasta machine, set it at zero and crank each slice of dough through, advancing to numbers two, four, six, and eight, cranking the same piece of dough through until it is as thin as you desire. You may have to cut the dough into lengths as it elongates. Go ahead and do that.

Change the setting on your pasta machine to cut fettuccine or another pasta shape of choice. Run each length through to create your desired shape.

Let the cut pasta dry in a rack or on a floured baking sheet for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare a pot of water as salty as the sea and set to boil.

Once at a rolling boil, add your noodles. Cook three minutes or less; it should be al dente, toothsome to the mouth.

Reserve some of the pasta water to thin your sauce if you like, and drain.

Prepare to receive all kinds of uncanny accolades. Chuckle to yourself gently. It’s just flour and water. And: less. Scarsa!

Cooking, Eat Good Food, Field Notes

Make Your Own Yogurt

Yogurt is downright magical. It’s packed with protein and with gut-friendly bacteria that aid in digestion. It goes from sweet to savory, from breakfast to dinner, like nobody’s business, and it stays fresh far longer than a carton of milk. Making your own batch of yogurt feels pretty magical too, and is simple to boot—all it takes is a quart of milk and a spoonful of yogurt.

Yes, you read that right—you need yogurt to make yogurt. Yogurt is the product of live bacterial cultures fermenting milk, and for your first batch you’ll need to borrow some of those cultures from a good storebought yogurt. Once you’ve had your first yogurt-making session you can save some of your homemade yogurt to inoculate the next batch, much like maintaining a sourdough starter or a kombucha mother.

Homemade yogurt without stabilizers or thickeners has a thinner texture than you might be used to—it will dribble, rather than dollop. If you prefer a thicker yogurt, strain your yogurt through a cheesecloth-lined colander for a few hours.

 

Ingredients

1/2 gallon fresh whole milk

1/4 cup plain, unsweetened full-fat yogurt with live active cultures

 

Instructions

Put milk in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Heat, stirring frequently until milk reaches a bare simmer. Milk should be between 180 and 200 degrees. Remove pot from heat and let cool to between 110 and 120 degrees.

Place yogurt in a small bowl and whisk in a bit of milk until smooth and liquidy. Stir the yogurt mixture into the pot of warm milk and cover with a lid. Wrap pot in a large towel and place in a warm place, such as in the oven with the light turned on or on top of the refrigerator. Let yogurt sit for 6-12 hours until thickened. The longer it sits, the tangier it will be.

At the end of fermentation, whisk the yogurt vigorously until smooth. Keep finished yogurt in the refrigerator, and be sure to save some for the next batch.

Eat Good Food

Pan Bagnat Sandwich Recipe

sandwich

Pan bagnat, or “bathed bread,” is the Provençal sandwich found at every bakery and market in the region. A sandwich in name but packed with tomatoes, local bell peppers, black Niçoise olives, anchovies and tuna, pan bagnat is basically a salade Niçoise on crusty bread. What’s not to like!

Here’s how to make your own.

Pan Bagnat

2 ripe tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 (5-oz.) can olive oil-packed tuna, drained
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup arugula
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 rustic baguette, split
1 small bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced crosswise
8 salt-cured anchovies, briefly soaked to remove salt, then dried
1-2 tbsp Nicoise olive powder
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste

Sprinkle tomato slices liberally with salt and transfer to a colander; set aside to drain for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, break up tuna with a fork. In another small bowl, whisk together oil and mustard; set dressing aside.

Scoop the insides from the bread loaf and reserve for another use. Place tomatoes evenly over the bottom of the bread and then top with arugula, fennel, and red onion; spread tuna over top, then top with egg slices, anchovies, and Nicoise olive powder.

Pour dressing evenly over ingredients, and season with salt and pepper; cover with top of bread, pressing lightly. Wrap tightly and allow time for flavors to mingle before slicing in quarters.

Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine