Summer of Love Popcorn

I missed the whole nutritional yeast phenomenon. You know, that staple in the kitchens of vegetarians and vegans used to supplement their diets.

Nutritional yeast

Heralding back 50 years ago, it was the darling of the hippie generation and the many caught up in the massive back to the land movement that followed.  Nutritional yeast was a natural for those rejecting establishment commodities. It was emblematic of the value placed on nutrition and simplified living.

Nutritional yeast is a dried condiment of sorts. Its taste is often described as cheesy; it is fairly low in sodium and has only 60 calories in two tablespoons. It can also be used as a thickener or a binder, like bread crumbs.

Best news, it is considered a complete protein and rich in fiber, and it is high in magnesium, iron, phosphorus, biotin, vitamin B-12, folic acid, and other minerals.  Nutritional yeast is described as a dead yeast, in that it is inactive and often fortified with B1, B2, B6, B12 and more.

On a recent visit to Life Source Market, our local hangout for first rate natural foods, I was wandering the bulk food section with eyes glazed over, when approached by one of the staff.  I explained I was in search of ‘nutrition yeast’. He nodded and pointed out 2 lower bins, explaining that they offer two varieties of nutritional yeast, a flaked and a powdered one, depending on preference.  His voice softened as he praised its health benefits and cheesy flavor. ‘It’s a must on popcorn,’ he murmured, and left me to ponder alone. I theorized that larger flakes would be more of the same, so I cautiously opted for a small amount of the powdered variety, and moved on to the tea bins.

Nutritional yeast is fascinating, no doubt I’ll find plenty of uses for it. For now, I am happy to report I have gotten serious about popcorn again. Here is my current take on an easy popcorn, based on low butter bags of microwaveable on hand. I use a good quality coconut oil which lends a toasted perfume of coconut, a nice change from butter. The dusting of nutritional yeast clings to the popcorn and helps other ingredients to adhere as well.  Korean red pepper, or gochugara, is milder than cayenne-style with a slightly smoky-sweet flavor.  Season to taste with a good quality sea salt.

Yes I am hooked on this mixture; it’s reassuring to know that I can dive into popcorn and get heathy too!  I suspect I will return to the popcorn-in-a-bag concept, mastered a couple of years ago, and give up on the packaged goods.  Winter or summer, popcorn is always in season.

EZ Popcorn

Ingredients

1 medium bag microwaveable popcorn, popped
2-3 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast, or to taste
1-2 teaspoons Korean red pepper flakes
Sea salt to taste

Directions 

  1. Empty the popped corn into a bowl. Drizzle with coconut oil and toss well.
  2. Sprinkle with the nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes and toss to distribute.
  3. Season with salt to taste.   Serves 2.

Note: This popcorn is even good the next day!

Sweet or Salty?

When it comes to snacks, most of us tend to lean toward either sweet or salty treats, one or the other.   But all that is changing.  Thanks to the injection of Asian culinary influences, we are rejecting this limiting construct, this antiquated divide between the sweet and salty.  Why can’t we have both?  An extra hit of salt deftly applied to a dessert handily wakes up the tongue’s taste buds while further bumping up the sweetness factor.

It opens up all sorts of taste possibilities:  salt and caramel are naturals, so are maple sugar and bacon, or sea salt and chocolate.  This all makes my mouth water just thinking about it ― as it did recently while musing over my old Toll House Cookie recipe.

What makes a Toll House cookie the gold standard of cookies?  The combination of butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar merge into the well-balanced caramel flavor we all love. Throw in plenty of vanilla, a boost of salt, a bit of baking soda, an egg for lightness, stir in some flour to bind it all together, and you have the perfect batter. But, for most  it is the chocolate chips that have made it a classic.  One bite and your tongue is doing a tap dance in your mouth―it’s hard not to be happy!

Deb Perelman clearly has this figured out with Buttered Popcorn Cookies in her popular Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Shades of a Toll House cookie― I knew she was on to something, since I would take a bowl of popcorn over chocolate any day of the week. popcorn cookies rack The popcorn adds a nice toastiness, a little more bulk and crunch, and the extra nudge of butter and salt are prominent enough to tickle the tongue.   You really can’t eat just one.

It is a small recipe, but I suspect it doubles easily.  For hard core chocoholics, you could probably drizzle melted chocolate over the tops and have the best of bother worlds.  I’ll just have another cookie.  Thanks, Deb.

 Buttered Popcorn Cookie
Buttered Popcorn Cookies

Buttered Popcorn Cookies

Inspired by Deb Perelman’s recipe in Smitten Kitchen Cookbook 

Ingredients

1/4           cup popcorn kernels,about 4 cups popped and seasoned with 1 Tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp salt
1/4           cup butter, softened
1/2           cup brown sugar, packed
1/3           cup granulated sugar
1              large egg
1/2           tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4        cup all purpose flour
1/4           tsp baking soda

Method

  1. Prepare popcorn and set it aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease, spray, or line baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl whisk the flour and baking soda together.
  3. In a large bowl cream the butter with the brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Stir the dry into the butter mixture.  Fold in the popcorn to distribute evenly; there will be a lot of it and it will break up a little.
  4. Scoop heaping tablespoon sized mounds 2″ apart onto baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are light brown. Let set on hot sheet for a few minutes to firm up before moving to rack to cool.  Yield:  20- 24 cookies.