As a chef, artist, and simply someone who is curious I am continually seeking moments of inspiration – something to push me to the edge were I can teeter. One can never tell where or when that bolt of lighting will strike, and even more importantly if it will catch fire. Though it is more important to constantly try, and fulfill the ideas as they percolate up.
For the past few years I have had an idea, or more like a desire, to take popcorn and get it out of the dark of the theatre. The initial spark for me came on a trip to South America and a ceviche I had. Instead of the ubiquitous chips that usually accompany this citrus bathed fish dish there were giant popped corn nuts as its side. Brilliant I thought, and got more taught up with the popped corn than the wonderfully spiced fish I had in front of me as well.
I had a mission – how to use popcorn outside its known applications. Carmel corn; cheddar dusted; soaked in melted butter never really did it for me anyway. Then I thought about a panzanella salad and figured if stale bread could make a wonderful salad way not try the popped corn. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of a group of students this salad started to take form. To all our delight it worked, and the end result was an empty serving dish.
Popcorn Salad – yields 8 servings
1/2 cup popping corn
1/2-cup olive oil
1-pint cherry tomatoes – halved
1 fennel – halved, and cut paper thin
3 garlic cloves – finely minced
4 scallion – chopped
1 bunch radish – diced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup roughly chopped basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat a six-quart pot over a high flame, and add the popping corn and oil. Cover with a tight fitting lid, and move the pot over the flame to fully pop the corn.
After the corn as popped, remove the lid and allow it to cool.
In the meanwhile, in a large work bowl toss the tomatoes, fennel, garlic, scallions, radish and vinegar.
Once the popcorn has cooled toss thoroughly with the tomato mixture along with the basil. Season with salt and pepper and serve.