I’m sharing one of my most favorite snacks in the world with you today: popcorn.
Popcorn has been a staple snack in my life since I was a little kid. I’m not talking about the microwave kind. I’m talking about the popped-in-a-pot kind.
When I was a kid, my parents’ work schedules were sometimes out of the ordinary. My dad was a working doctoral student and my mom was a librarian at the local public library. Sometimes this meant that my mom would work evenings and weekends, leaving my dad in charge of my two younger sisters and me. Dinners with Dad usually consisted of typical bachelor food. Lots of bean taco or frozen pizza nights occurred when my mom was working late. We loved it.
One of the snacks my dad made for us frequently was homemade popcorn. He would cook it very simply: in a small amount of canola oil and seasoned lightly with salt. It was an addictive treat.
It wasn’t until years later that I was introduced to the microwave version. While it had a fun “movie theater butter” flavor, nothing beat the taste and smell of the home-popped stuff.
So, as an adult, I have carried on my dad’s tradition of making homemade popcorn. I RARELY (like, once a year) buy the microwave kind, and when I do, I’m so boring about it. I usually go for the all-natural, simply salted variety. The fake butter just doesn’t do it for me. I prefer popping it at home and eating it like my dad used to serve it: with a sprinkle of salt. OR I turn the volume and add my favorite flavors to the mix.
My husband and I nosh on a bowl of this version at least once a week. It’s addictive and delicious and wonderfully nostalgic for me. Popcorn takes me home…back to simpler days where the biggest crises in the house were a glass of spilled milk or a lost Barbie shoe. The good ol’ days.
One of the best things about popping your own corn is that the flavor possibilities are endless. Sometimes I do just garlic. Sometimes I do just truffle. Sometimes I sprinkle it with parmesan cheese. Sometimes I add some spices like chili powder. Really, you can do anything your heart desires.
Pop some corn. It’s so easy! Any time or effort you do put into it is so totally worth it.
Garlic cloves, smashed
White truffle oil
Lots of salt
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add 3-5 popcorn kernels to the oil and wait until tiny bubbles form around them. This indicates that the oil is hot enough to add the rest of the popcorn.
Add the rest of the popcorn, give the pot a good shake, and then cover. The popcorn will pop during the next 3-5 minutes. I usually give the pot a shake or two during this time. As soon as the popping begins to substantially slow down, turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the crushed garlic. Bring to a gentle bubble and then remove from heat. Allow the garlic to infuse the butter while you wait for your popcorn to pop.
Once the popcorn is done popping, remove lid, and liberally season with salt. Pour on the garlic butter and a drizzle of truffle oil. Toss well to coat. Taste to see if everything is how you like it and then enjoy!
Note: I’m not giving exact measurements for this recipe because I think how much popcorn you eat is one of those things you figure out for yourself. A good rule of thumb that I use for a large pot of popcorn (10-12 cups), is to use about ⅓ cup of popcorn, 3-4 tablespoons of butter, and two smashed garlic cloves. Truffle oil and salt are “to taste” ingredients.
Am I the only one who cannot wait for daylight savings?
I am in dire need of one more hour of daylight each day. Yes, it’s been better these past few weeks, but still! It’s depressing when the day ends at 5 pm. It makes me sleepy.
I’m looking forward to all things spring. Longer days, milder weather, the smell of food grilling away outside, and eating lighter.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to cozy up with the comfort foods we all know and love. This pizza is topping my list at the moment. It’s all my favorite things in one bite.
Dough, cheese, bacon, brussels, roasted garlic, and cheese. My kind of pizza.
I’ve already ranted on and on about my love of brussels, but really, bacon and brussels were meant to go together. I feel like each one makes the other better. How can anything make bacon BETTER, you ask? Try it with brussels. You can thank me later.
The roasted garlic cream is my way of changing up the tune of classic white pizza. Instead of using the raw garlicky flavor that we often associated with white pizza, I decided to roast the heck out of it to tone things down a bit. The sweet and savory flavor of roasted garlic is one of the best on this good earth, if you ask me. I love it deeply golden and super soft. So soft that you can spread it on bread. Yum.
I’m so in love with this pizza, I am half-tempted to run out to the store right now to buy more brussels so I can make it for dinner tonight. It’s incredible.
Pizza with Roasted Brussels, Bacon, & Roasted Garlic Cream (makes 4 servings)
For the Roasted Garlic Cream:
1 head of garlic, halved
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup of milk, warmed
½ cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper
Pizza dough (I use the dough from this recipe)
1 cup of roasted brussels sprouts, halved
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups grated fontina cheese
Fresh thyme, chopped
For the Roasted Garlic Cream:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the head of garlic on a piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and wrap up to form a bundle. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the cloves of garlic are soft and caramelized. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before handling. Raise the oven temperature to 475°F and place a pizza stone (if using) in the oven.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and cook for a minute. Very slowly whisk in the warmed milk. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Stir in the cheese until melted. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the skins and into the sauce. Whisk to combine and then remove from heat. Allow to cool.
Roll the pizza dough out to desired thickness and shape. Place on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal (if you’re not using the pizza stone/peel method, just roll out onto a greased baking sheet). Spread the roasted garlic sauce evenly over the dough and then top with most of the grated fontina. Evenly distribute the brussels and bacon over the top and then sprinkle with a little more fontina cheese. Finally, sprinkle the fresh thyme over the top.
Transfer the pizza to the preheated oven/stone and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is crispy and beginning to brown and the cheese is bubbly and browned in spots. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, and then slice and serve!
Today, I’m sharing some good ol’ fashioned comfort food. Sometimes that’s all we need in life….a bowl of something warm and heavy and wonderful. Considering that we’re in the midst of yet ANOTHER snow storm, I could use all the comfort I can get right now. Over. It.
This pasta is inspired by our Valentine’s dinner. That’s really all we do for Valentine’s: dinner. Either at home or out at a nice restaurant. We don’t go over the top. All we need is to share in some good food and each other’s company. And in this year’s case, a bowl of incredible pasta. We headed out to Sbraga this year (you may recognize the chef from Top Chef fame – he won a couple seasons ago!). The menu sounded great and had received great reviews. We were not disappointed. The dinner was coursed and each of our selections was delectable, but a certain pasta dish was the favorite by far.
Rigatoni slathered in a rich, spicy lamb sauce, pools of soft ricotta, and a sprinkling of finely chopped toasted walnuts. Every bite had so much going on. It was perfect.
It was another one of those dishes that we both decided needed to be attempted at home.
And this is what I came up with. I think I got it pretty close! The sauce, like Sbraga’s, is full of spices, aromatics, and of course…the unctuous flavor of lamb. Love it. Pools of cooling, creamy ricotta really take this dish over the top. Don’t skip that part, please.
Meat sauces in general take some effort and time to make, but once you’ve got everything simmering away in the pot, you can almost leave it alone. The magic happens without you. It’s a wonderful thing to make on a weekend, when you have all day to lounge around and enjoy the amazing smells wafting from the kitchen. It just feels extra homey when something like this is bubbling away on the stove. And the resulting dish is soooo worth the work and the wait! I promise. It’s hearty, rich, and almost silky in a way. Just lovely.
I highly recommend eating this type of sauce with a tube-shaped pasta. I love rigatoni because they are larger and the sauce can really get stuck in every nook and cranny. It’s awesome. Of course, use whatever pasta you like or have on hand. I’m sure it will still be delicious.
Make this next weekend. And invite me over when it’s ready. I could eat it every day.
Rigatoni with Spiced Lamb Ragu, Softened Ricotta, & Toasted Walnuts
(makes 6 servings)
For the Lamb Ragu:
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 lb ground lamb
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup tomato paste
3 cups dry red wine
2 cups tomato puree
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
3 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons sugar
1 parmesan cheese rind
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 whole clove
2 cinnamon sticks
1 2-inch piece orange peel
3 cups whole milk
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt, to taste
Rigatoni, cooked to el dente
Ricotta cheese, thinned with a little milk (it should be almost pourable)
Toasted walnuts, chopped
Grated parmesan cheese
For the Lamb Ragu:
Heat the oil in a large pot and add the lamb. Break up with a spatula and cook until browned, about 5 minutes (Note: I did this in batches to ensure everything got nicely browned). Remove from pot, drain on paper towels, and drain off most of the fat from the pot.
Meanwhile, place the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped (you can leave them in bigger pieces; you will end up with a chunkier sauce. I happen to prefer a smoother consistency).
Add the finely chopped vegetables to the pot with another tablespoon of olive oil and cook over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes. You want the vegetables to be very soft and starting to caramelize.
Add the red pepper flakes and tomato paste and stir until combined. Deglaze the pot with the wine and cook for 5 minutes or until most of the wine is evaporated. Add in the tomato puree, tomatoes, beef stock, sugar, and parmesan cheese rind.
Place the bay leaves, peppercorns, clove, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel in a small piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen string. Add to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Add the milk and stir to combine. Simmer for another 1-1½ hours, or until the sauce is thickened. Check for seasonings and stir in the basil just before serving.
Toss the rigatoni with some of the ragu and place in serving bowls. Garnish with dollops of the thinned ricotta, toasted walnuts, and grated cheese. Top with additional fresh basil, if desired. Serve immediately.