No Saturday night in with an old movie on TMC--The Bad and the Beautiful is tonight's "essential"--would be complete without popcorn. But after spending all day in the heat and sun (we walked up to the Central Park reservoir and back), the last thing either Jon or I wanted was something salty. So what's the solution? Make our own salt-free microwaveable popcorn from scratch, of course.
I remembered reading this post on homemade microwave popcorn on Mark Bittman's New York Times food blog and got to work. I opted for a bowl instead of the brown paper bag, and I also opted for olive oil over peanut oil.
I used 1/4 cup popcorn, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and about a dozen grinds of freshly cracked black pepper. We also made a variation with cayenne pepper, but you could try adding any spice you want: chipotle, cinnamon, or even curry powder. Make sure you use a glass--preferably Pyrex--bowl with a lid, not a plastic bowl and Saran Wrap. (Trust me on this! It wasn't until my third attempt that I switched to a Pyrex covered casserole dish.)
Stir the popcorn, oil, and pepper well to make sure each kernel is coated. Cover the bowl and microwave on high. One thing, though: Bittman claims that you should microwave the popcorn "until the kernels stop [popping], which is high heat for two minutes in many cases," but this is laughably inaccurate. Maybe it was the kind of popcorn I bought (well, more accurately, I sent Jon downstairs to the store), and maybe it was my microwave, but it took a whopping 4:30 for my popcorn to reach that magic place where the majority of the kernels have popped without burning and stinking you out of your house.
However, you might want to park yourself close to your microwave to keep both an ear and a nose out to catch the popcorn as the popping slows down and before it starts to burn.