Monthly Archives: March 2014

Chef Vasek’s Popcorn Salad

This inventive salad, topped with popcorn instead of croutons, made me smile when I spotted the listing on the luncheon menu of the lounge at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT, and it kept me happy until the last tasty, crunchy bite. What a delightful starter (not to mention, conversation starter) it would make for a dinner party!

Popcorn is having a culinary moment now, as a flavored snack and ingredient. And we all can get in on the fun, thanks to Executive Chef Cody Vasek, who generously provided the recipe:

Popcorn salad with maple-mustard vinaigrette

(Serves 4)

Popcorn

½ cup kernels

Large round pot with lid

Canola oil to coat bottom of pan

Salt and melted butter

On medium-high heat, place the oil in pot, add kernels, cover with lid. You will hear the corn popping.  Turn on medium heat and move the pot back and forth to keep the kernels popping, for a couple of minutes. Be sure to watch the bottom so the popcorn does not burn. Add salt and melted butter to taste.

Maple-mustard vinaigrette

1 cup canola oil

8 tablespoons of lemon juice

8 tablespoons of Trapp maple syrup

3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

2 fresh shallots-chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in blender except oil. Add oil slowly to emulsify. Salt and pepper to taste.

Set up

4 cups mixed greens or spinach

2 red (or substitute green) endive-julienned

Parmesan-shave to order

To Serve

In a mixing bowl, combine mixed greens, endive, popcorn, vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, adding more vinaigrette if needed. Add parmesan cheese and more popcorn on top of salad. Cheers!

Produce Pete Talks Beets

When my husband, a beet lover, suggested that I switch to yellow beets in order to avoid the bleeding and staining of the red ones, I reached out to Produce Pete, the Today Show’s learned and loveable fruit and vegetable maven, to find out if there’s a difference between the two. To my delight and enlightenment, he responded on his very next Saturday morning segment and he had some surprises.

While yellow beets are sweet, they’re less so than their deeper-colored cousins, Pete pointed out. But he had some good news, too: Yellow beets cook (steam, boil or roast) in about 20 minutes (approximately half the time of red!), while the two have the same nutritional value.

Whichever you choose, Pete recommends refrigerating beets without removing their leaves. When it’s time to cook them, leave on a half inch of stem, and then cool them under cold running water. The skin should rub off easily.

Oh, and don’t neglect the greens. The larger ones are delicious sauteed as you would broccoli rabe or spinach; the baby ones can be tossed into salads.

Got a fruit or vegetable question? Write to Pete@ProducePete.com.

Ease into Spring

The arrival of seasonal spring ingredients can simplify menu-planning, which for me is one of the most anxiety-laden aspects of home entertaining. I keep changing my mind about what to make and how to prepare it. But spring can shortcut such perfectionism.

Everyone welcomes the earliest bounty of spring, so a meal made from it seems special, even though showcasing such fresh, young ingredients demands only the simplest of recipes. Roasted spring lamb with steamed asparagus and new potatoes is one good example. But baby artichokes, fresh peas, fiddlehead ferns or fava beans are other early arrivals that will impress guests but need only minimal preparation.

For dessert, it’s a cinch to transform the first fruit of the season, rhubarb, into an ice cream topping by boiling it with a little sugar and water. But the first maple syrup of the season would work well, too, as I mention in my post on Tuesday. The tour guide suggested that idea, but the deliciousness of the dessert was confirmed by several members of the group, who serve it all the time.