CSA Veggie Pancakes with Yogurt Sauce

That moment when you return home from a wedding weekend….a weekend in which you ate a lot of wedding cake, had a few gin and tonics, and then attended the after party in which unlimited free pizzas were materializing on tables in front of you….

I was looking to detox a bit.  I also came home to CSA produce in various states of peril.  In particular, the zucchini was staring me in the eye saying now or never (actually not sure if it is zucchini or some lesser known variety of summer squash.)  I decided to make zucchini pancakes and began perusing around the web to see what recipes to use for inspiration.  The key points seemed to be:

  • grate the zucchini (and other veggies too)
  • wring out excess moisture
  • add binding agents of eggs and flour
  • fry or bake

Since I was feeling the health vibe, I went the baking route.  I improvised a recipe using what I had, and they were a really yummy Sunday dinner that came together quickly.  The leftovers also made an excellent lunch the next day.  I plan on making them again with the next truckload of squash I will get on Thursday.  Viva la CSA!

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Vegetable Pancakes

  • 5 small unidentifiable squash varieties, grated
  • 10 tiny, delicious, farm fresh carrots, grated
  • one red onion, grated
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3/4ish cup of flour
  • 3 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grate your squash, carrots, onion, and zest into a bowl.  It looks like a healthy rainbow!

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All of these veggies have a high water content.  You can mess about with cheesecloth or what have you, but I just took fistfulls of veggie glop and wrung them out in my hands over the sink.  It was actually very soothing, like a vegetable stress ball.  An astonishing amount of water will come out of these veggies.

Next, add flour and egg.  Whenever I make patties or pancakes I always fret about the consistency of the batter- you want it to hang together and not be too wet, but you also don’t want to taste too much flour.  I googled veggie pancake consistency and found nothing helpful.  I decided to go for a consistency that reminded me of muffin batter- very wet but sticks together when you shape it.

I oiled baking sheets and plopped the mixture into circles.  I then cooked about 15 min, flipping over mid-way through.  If you are lucky and have a broiler, you can use it to brown the top and bottom, but I actually got a pretty nice crust just from the oven and we have a weird broiler drawer that only fits things the size of playing cards, so….

I combined greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and basil to make a sauce to eat atop each pancake. 

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Planned Happiness Via Garlic Toast with Rabe and Onions

ImageWe signed up for a CSA and it started this week.  Our kitchen is flooded with every green thing imaginable: spinach, scallions, green garlic, rabe, several varieties of lettuce….you get the idea.  I’ve been a pretty uninspired cook lately but I found that heaps of pre-paid produce snap you into gear whether you feel inspired or not.

The other thing that has helped is a book my dear friend Emily recommended called The Everlasting Kitchen.  It’s a lovely, lyrical little book that gives loose instructions about how to minimize waste in your kitchen and make the most out of all your ingredients.  It’s more full of suggestions than recipes, which appealed to me as a more advanced home cook, and it’s full of time- and money-saving ideas.

Therefore, today I present you with a very simple recipe.  The trick of it is not in the ingredients or the technique- it’s in the fact that I threw it together in 10 minutes on a Thursday night and was still able to enjoy the flavors of roasted garlic and caramelized onions, which usually take at least 45 minutes.

At the beginning of the week, I roasted batches of vegetables that like to roast, such as sweet potatoes and broccoli.  I threw in 5-6 garlic cloves on the baking sheets (no oil, in their skins.)  When all the roasting was done, I stored the veggies in containers and saved the garlic to the side.

Two days later, when making a frittata (tasty, recipe to come), instead of using just the one onion I planned to use, I sliced all three of the ones we had and spent a good leisurely hour talking on the phone and getting a skillet full of melted gooey and brown onions.  I placed those in a plastic bag with the garlic in the fridge.  I wasn’t sure of my plans for them, but roasted garlic and caramelized onions are never a hardship to have on hand.  (PS: I caramelized the onions in butter and I’m not sorry.)

 The Everlasting Meal also reminded me of the simple beauty of toast as a centerpiece of a meal.  Sometimes I forget that you can heap a bunch of vegetables on a good piece of bread and that can be it.  So that was it: no recipe, just toast a piece of bread, rub roasted garlic over it with a fork, pile caramelized onions on top.  Rinse and chop broccoli rabe and wilt it in a hot pan with some roasted pepper flakes.  Then add it to the toast and enjoy the fact that you planned for your own happiness (in the form of garlic and onions) earlier in the week, and you are now able to reap the rewards.

My recent adventures in sweet potatoes

It’s not like I needed new ways to fix sweet potatoes- I was already an addict.

But I came across this recipe, and I was tempted by the promise of crunch, since I usually settle for soggy-but-still-good sweet potato fries.  I followed it pretty much to the letter, including using the coconut oil and shaking the mixture in a ziploc (strangely satisfying by the way).  The fries blew all my past attempts out of the water.  They were so good that my dinner guests ate them sans ketchup, and they disappeared rapidly. 

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See the crunch on these bad boys?

 

Then I started craving a sweet potato sandwich, so I made this springy little tortilla grilled cheese on my panini press. 

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Just before it got topped with the second tortilla and went into the panini maker.

 

Instructions are simple: Make pesto by combining 2 cloves garlic, walnuts, kale pieces that have been torn off the stem, the juice of one lemon, and olive oil in a food processor.  Add salt to taste.  Spread one corn tortilla with pesto.  Layer sweet potato coins that you have roasted in the oven for 10 or so minutes at about 375 F.  Then add red onion slices (you can soak them in cold water to diminish their bite, but still I wouldn’t eat this before a job interview or anything.)  Add a pile of arugula and a sprinkling of goat cheese and then your second tortilla.  Then heat the pressed sandwich until the cheese melts and the tortillas get crispy. 

This would be an excellent lunch for anyone working from home while STARTING AN MBA, or taking a break from renovating their BRAND NEW HOUSE, or anyone taking lil’ vacation before becoming a SUPER FANCY DOCTOR AT AN AWESOME RESIDENCY PROGRAM.  Just for example.  

No Knead to Stress About Homemade Pizza

Who doesn’t love a recipe that you can make tipsy on 2.5 glasses of wine, forget about for 20 hours, and then fashion into a delicious homemade pizza?  All things in life should be so rewarding for so little effort.

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This week we entertained guests on two weeknights back to back!  Yeah, we’re pretty big-time.  As our Monday night guests walked out the door at 11 pm, I prepped for the next round by dumping together some flour, salt, water, and yeast in a bowl.  By 11:05, I was in bed.

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So easy, you can do it after a few glasses of cab sauv 

After Tuesday classes, I came home and prepped the stage for pizza domination.  Making pizza is really good practice in multi-tasking.  In one hour:

  • I sectioned the dough (which had doubled overnight in its perch on top of the stove) into 3 balls.  (If you are not planning to make 3 pizzas, you can put the other balls in the fridge for use in 3-5 days.)
  • While it was rising some more, I simmered a few ingredients together for a spicy rosemary pizza sauce.
  • The oven did double duty by roasting garlic and sweet potato slices while simultaneously getting nice and toasty for pizza-makin’.
  • As the sauce simmered I caramelized an onion.
  • When my sous-chef got home from work, he sliced up pears and crumbled goat cheese.

At T-Minus 30 minutes, I assembled oiled baking sheets.  I pressed the dough out into a rectangle on the sheet.  Warning: this dough is stickier than some other pizza doughs, so it’s more of a press than a stretch.  I was skeptical, but it didn’t stick to the pan at all. In fact it came out pretty delicious.  I did put some cornmeal down to further discourage stickage).

Out come the toppings for two tasty vegetarian pizza combos:

#1: Rosemary Sauce, sweet potato slices, roasted garlic, spinach, and goat cheese (inspired by Emma’s in Kendall Sq)

#2: Honey mustard, sliced pear, caramelized onion, and mozzarella (It may sound weird, but trust me, it’s delicious)

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I had cranked our oven as high as it would go.  Ideal pizza making conditions call for high heat below and above the pizza, but sometimes you have to compensate.  Our oven cooks hotter above, so the cheese and toppings melt after about 6 minutes, but before the bottom has a chance to get crispy.  A solution I learned from Slice (a blog for pizza nerds such as myself,) is to take the pizza out of the oven when the top is done, and place in an oiled cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Frying it in the cast iron will give the bottom a nice crunch without burning the top.  (You have to keep checking the underside so you know when to take it off.)

Below, the details for recreating the deliciousness in your kitchen on any old Tuesday night:

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No-Knead Dough (via Jim Lahey, referenced all around the internet)

  • 3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cup lukewarm water

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix the water in.  You may have to use your hands to mix the ingredients into a shaggy ball.  No need to knead (ha!), in fact don’t overhandle.   The dough’s awesomeness lies in the long rise, which allows for well-fermented flavors.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature for between 15-20 hours.  It should about double in size.  After the initial rise, divide into three balls.  Leave to rise for 1 hr for immediate use, or put in the fridge (if you want to use the fridge dough later, just let it come to room temperature by placing it on the counter for a few hours.)

 Spicy Rosemary Pizza Sauce

  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (San Marzanos preferable)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 sprigs rosemary (sprigs and chopped leaves separated, both used in recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

In a small saucepan, combine the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and stripped rosemary sprigs.  Bring to medium heat and simmer about 20 min, stirring frequently.  Add the remaining ingredients and season to taste.  You will have some leftover sauce to use on future pizza or pasta projects.

 Pizza #1

  • 1 no-knead dough crust
  • spicy rosemary sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 sweet potato (washed, slice, and roasted at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes)
  • 5-6 cloves of roasted garlic
  • half log goat cheese, crumbled
  • small handful shredded mozzarella
  • 10-12 spinach leaves, rinsed

Prep ingredients by making dough 1 day in advance and sauce about 30 minutes in advance.  Roasted garlic will take about 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven, and sweet potato can be thrown in for 10 minutes of that time.

Oil a baking sheet.  Thrown down some cornmeal.  Press the dough into a pizza-sized rectangle or circle.  Spread rosemary sauce.  Press and spread garlic cloves into sauce.  Lay sweet potato slices across surface of pizza, and layer spinach leaves over. Finish the pizza with goat cheese and mozzarella.

Bake at your oven’s highest temperature until cheese is melted and bubbling.  See note about cooking the bottom of the pizza in a skillet if necessary.

Pizza #2

  • 1 no-knead dough crust
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T honey mustard (I believe Honeycup brand to be the tops, but up to your preference)
  • 1 onion, caramelized
  • small handful shredded mozzarella
  • sliced pear (apple is also a good substitute)

Prep ingredients by making dough one day in advance.  Caramelizing an onion will take 15- 30 minutes.

Oil a baking sheet. .  Thrown down some cornmeal.  Press the dough into a pizza-sized rectangle or circle.  Spread olive oil and then honey mustard on top.  Lay pear slices across the surface, and layer caramelized onions and mozzarella cheese.

Bake at your oven’s highest temperature until cheese is melted and bubbling.  See note about cooking the bottom of the pizza in a skillet if necessary.

With a little help from a jar….

…can’t believe it’s not takeout 20 min Chickpea Madras Curry!

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Real talk: since I went back to school, nothing too inspiring or innovative has been coming out of my kitchen.  Grilling, the same 2-3 dinners on rinse and repeat, and yes, more than one evening of Thai takeout.  Every day I check cooking from afar and think “I need to make something delicious, stat!” and every Monday or Thursday night I find myself doing something boring….you know, not blogworthy.

I suspected last Thursday would be no different.  I was rushing home from 8 hours of class and I knew the cupboards were pretty bare.  As I walked with my grad school partner in crime Emily, we received a flyer for a new Indian restaurant in Central Square.  We both expressed a yearning for some Indian fare, especially with fall’s arrival and the new chill in the air.  Inspiration struck.  I remembered I had bought a jar of Indian Simmer Sauce on sale at Whole Foods a few months back.  I selected it for its notable lack of heavy cream: its main ingredients are tomato paste, coconut milk, and various Indian spices.  It’s the kind of thing you could definitely make on your own.  But some Thursdays, you just don’t have time to.

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When I got home, I looked around for what else I had to simmer with this little number.  Onions and garlic?  Check.  Jar of chickpeas?  Check.  Rice?  Check.  I set to work, and 1 hour later (which was mostly rice cooking time), I produced a curry so delicious that both of us felt it was just as good as takeout.  Now, is this the most creative thing I’ve ever made?  Does it showcase my formidable cooking skills?  Not really (plus I burned the bottom of the rice).  But I think it’s a quick meal that many of us can throw together and enjoy on a busy fall weeknight.

I want to experiment with making the sauce on my own.  Also, I think this would be tasty with some chutneys and a spiced yogurt sauce.  But it’s also damn good just as it is: a weeknight dinner with a little help from a jar.  It beats the price of Indian takeout, and it definitely beats the cream content, too.  Just wanted to share a snapshot of our weeknight dinners lately.  Want to hear from the rest of you!  What have you been cooking up so far this fall?

XO,

-S

Ingredients:

1 jar Madras Curry Sauce (or make your own if you’re feeling fancy- coconut milk, tomato paste, spices)

1 cup uncooked brown rice

2T coconut oil

1 jar chickpeas

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

toppings of choice (we had some of the last of the summer tomatoes, chopped, and some torn fresh basil).

Cook the rice according to directions. 

Meanwhile, sauté the onions and garlic in the coconut oil (used here to promote Indian flavors; if you don’t have any, olive oil or butter works fine).  Over medium heat until onions garlic are translucent and soft (10ish minutes).  Add chickpeas, sauté about 5-7 more minutes, then add simmer sauce until the mixture is warm.  Add toppings if you wish and serve. 

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Mexican Street Corn Salad

Hello, all.  Long time, no write.  But I echo everything Cat said about A + K’s wedding.  In fact, my biggest regret of the whole beautiful weekend was that we didn’t get a picture of the four of us ladies for ze blog.  That said, everything else was flawless, just as summer in New England should be.  And I certainly don’t regret any of the moves I busted on the dance floor.

Last night, a lovely and mild summer evening, Carrie came over to make dinner.  We had emailed and texted all day about the menu and we both agreed we really wanted to make Mexican street corn- the delicious, mayo and cheese and lime soaked concoction on a stick- but ideally without mayo since neither of us ever buys it. 

 

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We whipped up this recipe off the cuff using Greek Yogurt (fage brand) as the substitute for mayo.  We did a few other unconventional things- I didn’t want to fire up the charcoal just for corn, so I grilled the ears on my panini press (worked surprisingly well.)  Also, since Mexican Street Corn can be messy and some of the best bits of cheese can slide off the ear, we cut all the corn off the cob and made it a salad so you could use your fork to scoop up every delicious morsel

It turned out really tasty- tangy and spicy, with all of the ooze and none of the ick.  This could be a really popular side dish at a BBQ or summer dinner party, and you can kind of pretend it’s health food, on account of the yogurt.  Make it while corn is still cheap and plentiful. 

Mexican Street Corn Salad

  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 cup plain Fage yogurt
  • 1/2 block cotija cheese (feta would work, too)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp chopped scallions
  • juice of 3 limes

Grill the corn (or boil if you don’t have access to the grill).  Once cool, use knife to cut it off the cob into a mixing bowl.  Add other ingredients.  You will need to crumble up the cotija into bite size morsels.  Mix and taste, adjusting seasonings if necessary. 

 

ImageWe consumed ours with black beans, homemade tomato salsa, homemade guac, and quick pickled red onions in tacos.  Perfection.  The onions were tasty too, but i forgot to photograph them in the midst of my hunger so I’ll save them for another post.  

Island eSCAPES

This post is for anyone who

1) picks up garlic scapes at a farmers market or CSA and

2) googles around for possible uses and

3) realizes that everyone in the world seems to be using garlic scapes for only one thing (pesto**) and

4) has a lifelong need to not be like everyone else in the world.

Here is what my lovely sister and I did when we dared to be different with a batch of scapes on an island weekend in Maine.

Grilled Garlic Scape Bruschetta

  • one batch garlic scapes
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of a lemon
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped with juice
  • bruschetta vehicle (toasted bread or cracker)

Douse the scapes with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  

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Grill for about 8 minutes, until scapes are looking wilty and browned.  Take off grill and roughly chop into bite size pieces.

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Combine with juicy tomato goodness and spread on crostini vehicle of choice.

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A very good snack.  The scapes have a nice, mellow flavor rather like roasted regular garlic.

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**In the interest of full disclosure, I did have another batch of scapes later and I made…pesto.  And it was…very good.  Everyone makes it for a reason, I guess.  But I still maintain the bruschetta are a great and tasty way to put a different twist on this summer ingredient.  Make both and decide for yourself!

 

Pleasantly Surprised…

When life is hard sometimes you lose interest in cooking.  Especially if, in the midst of life being hard, you move and you don’t have any of your spices or knives, just a cracked plastic bowl and an old jar of peanut butter.  In times like those, you order a lot of Thai take out and otherwise subsist on berries and Greek yogurt.  Not very interesting blog material.

Then when things start to open up a bit, you only want to cook old standbys, favorite recipes that you know will deliver because you have enough uncertainty to deal with without wondering if a new recipe is going to disappoint.  So you cook from those recipes you know by heart, which of course, you’ve already blogged about before.  Again, boring.

But some summer days, the ones where you can watch the Olympic swim trials and enjoy a glass of wine on your new leafy patio, call for a new recipe.  Especially when you have two ripe avocados and you don’t want to make guacamole.  And a Smitten Kitchen recipe is as close as one can get to a sure thing when dealing with matters of kitchen uncertainty.

When life is hard it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised, whether by flowers from a thoughtful friend, or by an unassuming little recipe.  People, this is a good salad.  It takes basically two ingredients and everything else you probably have in your kitchen.  The carrots have great flavor and the avocado adds a nice citrus-y, summery feel.  A bite of it feels a little bit like waking up.

Avocado and Roasted Carrot Salad

adapted, barely, from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1  bag of large carrots, scrubbed and chopped into bite size chunks
  • pinches of salt, cumin, and pepper to taste
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • the juice of one lemon
  • olive oil to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 and in the meantime slice up your carrots.  Toss them in a olive oil and coat them with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for 25-35 minutes, until they are brown and taste tender but not mushy and overcooked.

Add the avocado slices with the carrots.

You all know how to slice avocado, but I just thought this ended up being kind of an arty photo.

 

 

Squeeze the lemon over everything, and add a drizzle more of olive oil with another generous dose of salt and pepper.  You’re done!

 

 

Lentil Cakes with Yogurt, Avocado, and Caramelized Onions

I’m digging the concept of “cakes” as a dinner idea.  Lately, I’ve been tired of pasta and the other usual suspects.  So it feels new and fresh to grind up some healthy stuff, mold it into a patty, fry it lightly, and top it with tasty sauce.  There are endless options- I’ve seen quinoa cakes, sweet potato cakes, and chickpea cakes just for starters, but this, my friends, is a post about black lentil cakes.

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I pretty much followed this recipe.  Mine ended up a little goopy, so I’d recommend going a little heavier on the breadcrumbs, especially if you are using Panko, like I was.  Also, I had a bit of an issue with them sticking in the pan.  I think more oil is the answer- perhaps even coconut oil?  Even a little bit misshapen, and even a little stuck  these were really good.

Lentil Cakes

(recipe from 101 Cookbooks)

  • 3 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ tsp salt

“Toppings”

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

I caramelized the sliced onion while the lentils cooked.  Then I whizzed the other diced raw onion in the food processor with the lentils, eggs, and salt.  Place in a bowl and add the breadcrumbs. then let it sit to absorb the moisture.  (In the picture below, you’ll see I goofed and put the breadcrumbs in the food processor, but they are actually supposed to be added later, so do as I say not as I do!) If you have a girlfriend over, this is the perfect time to drink your red wine and gossip.  Then after a few min, heat an oiled skillet to medium high heat.

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Form the mixture into small patties and place in the skillet.  Cover 7-10 minutes til browned on the bottom, then lift the cover and flip to the other side to cook about 7 more minutes.

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I served with a caramelized onion, slices of ripe salted avocado and a quick yogurt dip- combining the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, and salt. We spread the yogurt over the lentil cake and then added the avocado and onion.

Meditations on snacking

You should definitely give a guy you just met your number if one of your first conversations includes popcorn.

I know from experience.  Because not only is it a strong indicator of his quality as a person –in many scientific studies, it has been proven that preference for popcorn is highly correlated with being kind, funny, a subscriber to Scientific Mind, and a really good bowler — there is also a high probability that if said guy sticks around in your life, he will make you delicious stove-top popcorn on the reg.  None of this microwave business.  And stove-top popcorn is the tops in evening snacking.  Especially if you don’t have to lift a finger to make it appear.

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Popcorn just got elevated to a new level a few nights ago when we experimented with coconut oil.  You nutritionally minded types will know more, but I’m under the impression that it’s one of those “good fats.”  It’s also fun to cook with because it’s solid at room temperature, so it looks like you’re buying a jar full of wax.  But then that waxy stuff melts and cooks your popcorn and it ends up infused with a light and nutty flavor.  I can’t explain WHY it tasted so much better than the stuff popped with the usual canola oil.  But trust me, it did.

Make this happen some night soon.

Coconut Oil Stove-Top Popcorn

Scoop coconut oil into a large pot (use 1 T of coconut oil for every 1/4 cup of popcorn you intend to make.) See?  It’s waxy looking (p.s. Cat, check out the Woodford Bourbon in the background…mmmmmmm)

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Heat the burner to medium-high heat.  The coconut oil should start melting.  Place a few kernels in the pot as testers.  When you hear one pop, add the rest of the popcorn kernels and put a lid on the pot.  You can shake it a little, but it’s no big deal if you don’t.  Popping will pick up big time.  When the popping slows (1-2 seconds apart) take it off the heat and immediately transfer to a bowl.

We then melted a little more coconut oil in the still-hot pot and tossed it on top of the popcorn along with a healthy pinch of salt.  Perfection.