Double Coconut Popcorn

Eating locally is not always an easy feat, especially in Chicago’s dead of winter. Come January, Cara Cara oranges from California, Mexican avocados, and Bartlett pears from Argentina take over my diet.  Even the sweet potatoes, apples, and kale – which during warmer months I buy from Midwestern farmers – are being shipped in from more temperate climates. While I don’t suggest missing out on winter citrus simply because it’s not grown within spitting distance of your home, I do suggest trying to eat locally as often as possible. Here’s why.

In the winter, when the bounty of farmers markets is nonexistent, this popcorn is one way we Chicagoans can continue to support our local farmers. Yes, I said it. Locally grown, not mass produced Orville Redenbacher popcorn. Shocking. Hailing from Iowa, Tiny But Mighty Foods produces popcorn from heirloom ears of corn. The resulting kernels are, as the company’s name would suggest, tiny and boast disintegrating hulls. This means more kernels per delicious handful. Sounds like a win to me! (Visit the Tiny Buy Might Foods website to learn more about the popcorn and where it can be bought. In Chicago, most Whole Foods seem to carry it.)

With my Tiny But Mighty Popcorn in hand, I thought about reaching for a bottle of vegetable oil or a stick of butter. But in my mind, it seemed to deserve special treatment. Enter coconut oil. You may have already read about the fabulousness of this relatively new-to-me ingredient here and here. And if you haven’t, you should follow those links now. (That’s more of a command than a suggestion.) In this recipe, coconut oil lends a subtle nuttiness to popcorn that may have a quite familiar taste and for good reason. Movie theaters have long been popping their popcorn in coconut oil. This popcorn popping method was harshly attacked in the 90s when the Center for Science in the Public Interest claimed that a large movie-theater popcorn without butter contained as much saturated fat as six Big Macs. Never fear though! Stick to the virgin coconut oil instead of the partially hydrogenate version (aka the kind movie theaters use) and you’re good to go.

Double Coconut Popcorn

adapted from the New York Times

Makes about 8 cups popcorn

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 cup popcorn kernels (try Tiny But Mighty if available near you!; see above for more details)

Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

In a large pot over medium heat, toast the coconut flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt until the coconut is golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

Add oil to the pot. Stir in the popcorn and cover pot. After a few minutes, the popcorn will begin to pop vigorously. When the popping begins to slow and several seconds pass between pops, pour the popcorn into a large bowl

Season the popcorn with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; sprinkle with coconut flakes and cayenne pepper. Toss gently to combine.

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