February 2011

Nutritional news is often dire: less white flour, less sugar, less butter, less sodium. But sometimes the news is rather splendid—coffee is good for you! so is chocolate! and red wine!

I count homemade popcorn in the latter category. First of all, it’s a whole grain. And while both movie theater popcorn and standard microwave popcorn have some scary stuff in them, you can make non-scary and even more delicious popcorn at home really easily.

Here’s what you do: put some popcorn kernels in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a plate set slightly askew to allow steam to vent. (Thanks to The Kitchn commenters for teaching me this trick!)

Note the solitary escaped kernel. Run, kernel, run!

Microwave until the popping slows substantially. The time depends on how many kernels you put in and the power of your microwave.

Then flavor as you wish! Lately I’ve been tossing with olive oil and za’atar, Old Bay (in the photo below), or berbere spices. But you could use anything—parmesan, truffle oil or salt, even cocoa powder. Last time I checked, they don’t give you those options at the movie theater or the microwave popcorn aisle.



As dedicated readers may recall, I do not like raw tomatoes. (Not-so-dedicated readers: I do not like raw tomatoes.) I dislike them to the extent that I often skip over recipes that call for them. For that reason, I nearly skipped over this one, and I am so thankful that I didn’t. Because while the recipe does indeed call for raw tomatoes, what the recipe has you DO to those tomatoes—first broil and char them, then pulverize them with jalapeno, then simmer them with chipotles and chili powder—transforms them into something that even I’m willing to eat:

Tomatoes, obliterated.

I’ll admit that I did find it quite satisfying to destroy the tomatoes so thoroughly. But even if you feel more fondly towards tomatoes than I do, this is a fabulous, smoky chili that is well worth making.


I love lentil soup, but I find that it’s often unbearably wholesome and well, just kind of of meh. Whenever I come across a recipe that promises a new! and exciting! lentil soup, I make it with great hope—but am usually let down.  I think it just takes a substantial quantity of oomph to get lentil soup across the threshold from wan to fabulous.


new! (coconut red lentil soup)

These two recipes, however, both have the necessary oomph. Neither uses the conventional muddy brown lentils—instead, one uses a combination of red lentils and yellow split peas, and the other uses sturdier French green lentils. Each has some unusual ingredients—coconut milk in one, pureed chickpeas in the other. Plus, perhaps not coincidentally, each includes a healthy pat of butter. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s all lentil soup needed in the first place.

and exciting! (curried lentil soup)

As delicious as both of these soups are, I also recommend not being afraid to salt them–the right amount really makes them sing.


I love chickpeas and all the things that can be done with them. There’s hummus and falafel, of course. But there’s also socca, a kind of chickpea pancake, chickpea fries, Ethiopian shiro, and my favorite Sri Lankan breakfast chickpeas.

And I have very recently made the acquaintance of another amazing way to eat chickpeas: as a delightful snack, all by themselves. It turns out that when you roast them past the point of no return, you are left with pure crunch. These are basically to chickpeas what corn nuts are to corn, only much better.

snack time!

The blog where I found the recipe calls for five-spice powder, but these can be spiced however you like. I’ve used smoked paprika, curry powder, and Ethiopian berbere spice, and all have come out beautifully. Each time I’ve made them, my sole regret has been that I only made one can of chickpeas.