The tropical fruit comes in many forms and seems to be everywhere
Coconut appears to be more popular than ever. Many stores stock fresh coconut as well as dried coconut, coconut oil and butter, coconut water and milk, coconut vinegar and coconut flour. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard)
Forget the apricots, peaches and blueberries beckoning you at the market and consider, for a moment, the coconut. While this sweet, nutty fruit has been around for centuries, it has been quietly invading our cupboards and fridges the past few years.
Take a spin around any grocery store. The produce section has fresh coconuts that look like mini, hairy, brown bowling balls, perched among other tropical fruits such as mangoes, papayas and pineapples.
In the beverage cooler sits a cardboard carton of coconut water, a natural alternative to those neon-hued sports drinks.
The bulk aisle has bins overflowing with shredded coconut and coconut flour; thereís coconut milk next to the soy sauce.
Lest you forget, lurking among the olive and sunflower oil offerings are the jars and bottles of coconut oil and butter, right next to the fermented coconut vinegar.
Yes, coconut is ubiquitous in our stores, but itís not just a passing trend. Thereís a reason everyone from pop star Rhianna to Food Network Star Bobby Flay are pushing putting more than the lime in the coconut, and itís that the versatile drupe is erupting with nutrition.
Coconut oil and butter are saturated fats, but fine to use in moderation. Coconut water helps to replace potassium and sodium after light workouts, and coconut flour is a good source of fiber, low in carbohydrates and a great substitute in gluten-free recipes.
Determining how best to crack the coconut code depends on which form of coconut is preferred.
Grab one of those fresh brown orbs from the produce section. Find the end that has three small Ďeyesí and pierce two of the holes with a screwdriver or other blunt tool. Get a small bowl and cover with a fine sieve or piece of cheesecloth. Strain the coconutís water over the bowl.
Drink the coconut water straight, or mix it with your favorite rum, gin or vodka. It has a refreshing, nutty taste thatís only faintly sweet.
As for the coconut itself, preheat an oven to 375 degrees and place the coconut on a baking sheet. Bake the coconut for 15 to 30 minutes, checking after 15. What youíre looking for is a large crack, which will make it infinitely easier to break open.
Remove it from the oven and use the same blunt object used to poke the holes to gently finish breaking open the coconut. Allow to cool before proceeding.
Once cooled, the coconut meat can be eaten straight or processed in a food processor and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week. Scraping the meat from a fresh coconut can be time consuming, but gets easier the more itís done.
The resulting fresh coconut can be used in baked goods or used to make coconut milk.
To make coconut milk, use the ratio of one part coconut to two parts water. For two cups of coconut milk, take one cup shredded coconut (fresh, or dried unsweetened) and mix with two cups of hot water. If using dried coconut, soak the coconut and water for at least one hour.
Pour the liquid into a blender, working in batches if necessary, and blend until slightly smooth and combined, about two minutes.
Once blended, pour the liquid into a deep bowl that has been lined with cheesecloth. Strain through the cheesecloth, working to squeeze all the liquid from the remaining pulp. The liquid in the bowl is coconut milk, and can be used immediately, frozen or refrigerated for up to one week.
Use the coconut milk to make coconut cream pie, Thai-inspired curries, coconut lime smoothies or coconut banana bread.
Coconut meat can also be soaked with alcohol to make coconut extract. Simply add three tablespoons of fresh coconut meat to a half cup of vodka in a lidded glass container. Store in a dark place for two weeks, strain and use wherever coconut extract is called for in recipes.
If youíd rather not mess with a fresh coconut, try it in other forms.
Coconut vinegar is made from fermented sap and tastes more like apple cider vinegar than anything to do with coconut. Use it anywhere you would use apple cider vinegar; in salads, marinades or to add an extra zing to soups or stir-frys.
Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature and melts at around 78 degrees, makes popcorn extra crisp and crunchy and can be substituted for butter or other oils in everything from brownies to boeuf bourguignon.
Coconut flour is drier than wheat flour, and usually canít be swapped out evenly in recipes. While it smells quite nutty, most of its coconut flavor diminishes in the baking process. Look for recipes that specifically call for coconut flour.
Grab a coconut (or form of) and get crackiní. One way or another, this fruit is sure to please.
Green Curry & Coconut Soba Noodles
1 package (8 ounces) soba noodles
2/3 cup almond butter
3 tablespoons green curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon tamari
1/4 cup fresh mint or basil, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
Boil soba noodles in a large saucepot. Drain noodles in a colander, then return pot to the warm burner. Whisk together the almond butter, green curry paste, coconut milk, and tamari. Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with chopped mint or basil and pepitas.
Recipe from Babble.com.
Dark Chocolate Brownies
5 ounces high quality, (60 to 70 percent cocoa) dark chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup light brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Dark chocolate chips for the top
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, gently stirring. (Or melt in a microwave-safe measuring cup and stir together to combine.)
In a mixing bowl whisk together the brown sugar, almond meal, sorghum flour, fine sea salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract and melted dark chocolate mixture.
Beat on low-medium for two minutes, until the batter begins to come together. At first it will seem thin, like cake batter, but keep beating until it thickens and becomes smooth and glossy.
If you are adding nuts, stir in the nuts by hand and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Even out the batter with a silicone spatula.
Stud the top with some dark chocolate chips and press in slightly.
Bake in the center of a preheated, 350-degree oven for 32 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies are set. The top will crack, like a flourless chocolate cake.
Cool on a wire rack, and remove the cooled brownies from the pan by gripping the foil edges and lifting the brownies out as a whole.
Chill for an hour before cutting. (Though warm and gooey is really divine, if you donít mind them falling apart.)
Recipe from GlutenFreeGoddess.com.
Eugene Register Guard