It seems silly and embarrassing to say that “this little recipe was the start of so many things,” but in a way, it kind of was. It really introduced me to rosemary – I’m sure I knew it before, but it really made me appreciate it, and savor it, and recognize it. I’m growing my own plant now, for goodness sakes. And it introduced me to making my own popcorn.
Now, see? It sounds stupid. I know! Not so earth-shattering, popcorn, right? People are starving, wars are happening and whatnot. But in my little petty life, popcorn was a bit of an annoyance. I could never pop it in the microwave correctly. I have tried all different microwaves at all different times and powers. I have stood and absorbed the micro-waves, I have listened, I have counted between pops. I have put my faith in the ever-deceptive “popcorn button.” But the result was always the same: burnt popcorn in the middle, some decent popcorn around the edges, and a million unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag. Then there was the burning myself on steam trying to open the bloody bag. And did I mention that it didn’t even taste very good? And what about the havoc it probably wreaked on my health? How much sodium, how many preservatives and other crazy chemicals are in there, anyway?
Well. Then Giada De Laurentiis came along with her little “Everyday Italian” cookbook and changed my popcorn-eating life forever.
So here’s what you do.
Take 1/2 cup of olive oil and 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary and heat them in a small saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes. If you have a thermometer, you’ll want the oil to reach 180 degrees F. Take it from me, you really need to do this on low – if you’re too ambitious with the flame, the rosemary will fry. Remove the rosemary and let the oil cool to room temperature before storing. I keep a lot of little glass jars around, from jams and mustards and whatnot, for just this sort of occasion.
Giada says “This is a staple in my kitchen; it’s a fantastic flavoring agent that I can use at a moment’s notice… it could also be used for dipping breads or vegetables, or as the base of a salad dressing.” Sounds good to me.
As for popcorn, I quickly learned that a little goes a long way. For a single serving, I use 1/4 cup of popcorn or less, and the second-biggest covered pot I have. To start, coat the popcorn in 1 tablespoon of plain vegetable or canola oil. Cover the pot and cook on a medium-high heat until the kernels no longer pop. (Most recipes will tell you to shake the pot halfway through popping, but I have gotten lazy and not noticed a difference.) Remove from heat, pour over 1 tablespoon of rosemary oil, salt liberally, cover again and toss to coat popcorn.
If you’re new to making your own popcorn, have fun with it. Buy some flavored oils. I really like spicy chili oils as well. It’s personal, tastier, and so much healthier this way. Trust me, you’ll never go back to the bag!
*One word to the wise, do not attempt to pop kernels in butter. You may drizzle melted butter over the popped corn, but only pop in oil. And if you do try the butter, don’t expect it to taste like movie popcorn, ‘cuz it won’t. I’m still working on a healthy solution to this catastrophic problem…