- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No sooner do I recover from the food orgy that starts at Thanksgiving and ends with chocolate truffles and champagne on New Year’s Eve than the other half of Two’s Company announces that Super Bowl is on the agenda.

That’s a football game, not a holiday, I say in a weak response.

Apparently I haven’t been reading the statistics. The Super Bowl, which will be played Sunday, isn’t just a match between two teams any more than Mother’s Day is an excuse to kiss mom.

This is a megafeast occasion.

Many people eat almost as much on Super Bowl Sunday as they do on Thanksgiving. It’s the second-largest day of food consumption, next to turkey day, according to the folks at Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo.

The Super Bowl, however, doesn’t require anything fancy. As long as plenty of food is available, the house fanatic is happy.

Texture is just as important as the type of food on the menu. Crunch is essential. Chowing down on noisy foods helps alleviate stress.

That’s why I’m making popcorn this year. From the first pop to the last fistful, popcorn is a festive snack.

The only challenge is how to prepare it.

Popcorn has gone from plain to pretty elaborate. Take a look at trendy cookbooks and you’ll find recipes for popcorn with truffle oil or imported Parmesan cheese.

“People are interested in popcorn because it’s a blank canvas. You can add what you want to it,” says Wendy Boersema Rappel, with the Popcorn Board, based in Chicago.

She suggests seasoning popcorn with spices to reflect different ethnic flavors.

The following recipe uses curry powder and cumin for a hint of Indian cuisine. The result is a savory snack that will heat up the game.

If more crunch is needed, add hot and sweet spiced nuts to the menu. Serve with beer or hard cider.

Hot curried pecan and cranberry popcorn

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste

½ teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons dried sweetened cranberries, optional

5 teaspoons canola oil

1/4 cup popcorn kernels

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, curry powder and cumin. Add pecans and cranberries, and cook over very low heat for 2 minutes for pecans to absorb seasonings.

Meanwhile heat oil in large heavy-bottomed skillet or dutch oven. Add 2 or 3 popcorn kernels. When they pop, add the remainder. Cover skillet and cook over medium-high heat, shaking skillet frequently, while popcorn vigorously pops.

When the sound dies, remove the skillet from heat. Pour in the butter mixture and toss with two wooden spoons to coat popcorn.

Adjust salt to taste. Serves 2 avid football fans.

Hot and sweet spiced nuts

1 large egg white, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice

½ teaspoon salt

1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

½ cup raw pecan halves

½ cup raw walnut halves

½ cup raw cashew halves (see note)

½ cup raw whole almonds

Butter

Beat egg white until frothy in a large bowl. Stir in sugar, orange juice, salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and ginger. Mix well.

Stir in pecans, walnuts, cashews and almonds.

Spread mixture on generously buttered baking sheet with a slight rim.

Cook nuts in a preheated 250-degree oven for 1 hour, removing from oven every 15 minutes to stir. Use a spatula to remove nuts from baking sheet. Cool on a sheet of aluminum foil or waxed paper. Makes 2 cups or 8 servings.

Notes: Raw cashew halves are available in most natural food supermarkets.

You can substitute more pecans and/or walnuts if you prefer.

To clean the baking sheet, cool to room temperature, then fill with hot water and let soak. Any crusted egg white will wash off.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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