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David Lissner
for restaurants

Eat this! Popcorn shoots, the new mellow yellow

Fulton on the River’s popcorn shoot and ‘Lola Rosa’ salad.

Fulton on the River’s popcorn shoot and ‘Lola Rosa’ salad.

What it is: Popcorn shoots are fresh shoots grown from popcorn kernels. They’re grown in lightless conditions to prevent photosynthesis, which leaves them with a bright yellow color and a mellow, sweet-sour flavor.

Popcorn shoots

Popcorn shoots

Where it comes from: These buttery maize shoots arise from the “microgreens” trend that popped up in California in the mid-1990s, and which National Public Radio touted as a nationwide culinary buzzword in 2008. Microgreens differ from that 1960s and ’70s California trend, “sprouts,” in that they are baby plants with leaves and stems, grown upright in soil or a growing medium and harvested by cutting from their roots. Sprouts are less developed: just-germinated seeds produced in water and eaten root and all. Microgreens have fuller flavors and more developed forms than sprouts.

It may be tough to find popcorn shoots at local markets, but you can mail order or sprout your own.

What to do with it: The bright color and buttered-popcorn flavor adds dash to almost any dish. At Fulton’s on the River in River North, where Chef Greg Biggers has been doing a four-course, $49.95, summer corn menu, he recently highlighted popcorn shoots in a salad with grilled sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and ‘Lola Rosa’ lettuce.

Store popcorn shoots in the refrigerator in an opaque container to protect their color. Like all microgreens, they are highly perishable and should be used in a few days.

Fulton’s on the River’s local corn and ‘Lola Rosa’ salad
Chef Greg Biggers

Greg Biggers

Greg Biggers

2 cobs corn, shucked
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Chopped garlic to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Crostini:1 small French baguette
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

6 ounces ‘Lola Rosa’ or other leaf lettuce
1 cup medium diced jicama
1/2 pint halved cherry tomatoes
1 ripe avocado, medium diced
1/2 cup brown butter dill vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Salt and pepper to taste
12 popcorn shoots
Additional vinaigrette for garnish

Cook the corn: Toss the corn with the melted butter, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill and cook on all sides for about 8 minutes. Remove, cool, and then cut the kernels off in chards and set aide.

Make the crostini: Slice the baguette into very thin slices about 2 inches in length. Brush with small amount of extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toast in a 350 degree oven until crisp.

Assemble the salad: Lightly toss the corn, lettuce, jicama, tomatoes, and avocado in a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste.

Place some crostini on each of 4 plates, then divide the salad onto each plate. Top with popcorn shoots and drizzle a little of the vinaigrette around the plate for garnish. 4 servings.

Brown butter dill vinaigrette

1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
1 bunch dillweed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat until it is brown in color and has a roasted-hazelnut smell. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and hold at room temperature.

In blender or food processor, combine the dillweed, mustard, shallot, vinegar and lemon juice. Mix on high till all combined. Slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsification. Then slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the brown butter. Once completely incorporated taste and add salt and pepper. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

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