Today was a day full of exciting stuff: I stole someone’s car and drove out to Long Island to buy plants for my garden terrace, I tried out a new hair color that’s a little less Barbie doll (but still banging blonde), and I made the most delicious and exciting side dish.
How can a side dish be exciting? Oh now you have opened a can of worms. It's simple; this dish is exciting because I'm preparing a vegetable, in this case cucumber, in a totally different way.
And secondly I'm taking a super nutritious grain, amaranth, and popping it in a pan like popcorn. Yes, popping it!! Just imagine a bowl of super mini popcorn that's more nutritious than quinoa. Now come on! THAT is exciting!!
Amaranth is a seed like quinoa, it's gluten free and has an absolutely silly amount of protein. You should be able to find it in your bigger grocery stores, look for it in the grain/rice aisle or the bulk section.
To pop this grain all you have to do is place it in a dry pan and it pops like popcorn. But here's the catch, you have to find juuuuusssssttt the right temperature. You might get lucky and find that temperate right off the bat, or it might take you 10 times (like it did me, ok 14 times). But once you find the right temp on your stove, it's so easy a child could do it.
The pan should be hot enough that the amaranth should start dancing around within 2 seconds of being in the pan, and should pop within 7 seconds; if you are only getting a third of them to pop, just try turning the temp up. Just be patient and try it out, I promise you will get there and you will be so happy you did!
Now go and pop some amaranth already! And if you’re in the mood try it over tender crisp cucumbers that are doused in brown butter and lemon, its heaven!
Brown Butter Cucumber with Popped Amaranth
2 English cucumber, halved, each half cut into quarters lengthwise, then cut into ½ inch by 2 inch strips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped dill
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon amaranth
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and then cook it until browned—about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cucumber, and the salt and cook until the cucumber is tender – 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the lemon zest and dill to the pan with the cucumbers and stir to combine. Keep over low heat while you pop the amaranth.
- Heat a small dry skillet over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add amaranth 1 teaspoon at a time. The amaranth should immediately start popping, shake the pan until the amaranth stops popping – about 5 seconds. If the amaranth burns before popping, try turning down heat, if it doesn’t start moving/popping immediately, turn up the heat.
- Top the cucumber with the popped amaranth and serve.
Keep it simple: Popping amaranth is fun and it's crazy good for you. But if amaranth hasn't quite hit your stores yet try using a toasted breadcrumb on top of the cucumbers instead.