Back in the previous century when I was a kid, we’d grab a screwdriver and a hammer, bang a couple of holes in the eyes, drain out the liquid into a glass and divvy it up. After swigging down the coconut-splintery liquid, we’d go out to the back porch, lay some newspaper down, and crack open the nut with several mighty thwacks. We liked it with the brown skin (not shell) on, the meat raw, not toasted, pried out with a knife or nut pick.
What child (or grown woman) wouldn’t love all that equipment, mess and noise?
Time spent in the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii convinced me that coconuts were as good as I remembered them. In the 1980s, the still-popular Jennie’s macaroons, sold in health food stores and sweetened with just honey, if I remember correctly (today they use honey and organic cane syrup, aka sugar), were one of my favorite “junk” foods. Then, in the 1990s, after toying with the raw-food scene, young green coconut liquid and the soft jelly-meat became some of my favorite foods. They still are.
Today, despite dire warnings from the pundits that coconut fatigue is going to hit at any moment, coconut products seem to be as popular as ever, from coconut oil and coconut butter to coconut milk. Coconut-spelt Challah is on our table for each Shabbat, and when we host the weekly Breslov class for men, a coconut-milk based soup appears in the soup rotation about once every eight weeks, and is usually among the most popular. When we did the Breslov shiur for women in Nana’s home, she’d serve, without fail, homemade coconut candy, some recipe from her native Brazil.
The Problem With Coconut Milk
Coconut butter like the kind from Artisana is great, but the problem with coconut milk is the cans. Native Forest coconut milk used to be pure coconut milk but began to add guar gum, rendering it gummy and undigestible, like most other canned coconut milks. Certainly all the ones that were certified kosher had a lot of added gunk.
So I made my own coconut milk with fresh coconut (or the far-easier recipe calling for good quality organic grated dried coconut) and water, blending then straining, but it’s a pain, especially since coconut milk had been one of the few canned products I didn’t really mind using since any benefits of fresh were overshadowed by the effort.
Recently I discovered Natural Value coconut milk and cream. Not only does Natural Value not contain gunky gums, it is the best-tasting coconut milk I’ve ever had out of the can, really comparable in taste to fresh. I doubt I could tell the difference. It comes in both organic and non-organic varieties and I love the old-fashioned separation that occurs because coconut milk, which is after all, water and coconut, naturally separates since the coconut extract is so high in fat. All the fillers prevent separation.I’ve been inspired to make a bunch of treats with Natural Value coconut milk, lite coconut milk, and coconut cream. I actually like savory coconut recipes, but below are two sweet ones.
* These will not work well with brands containing xanthan gum, guar gum, or any other gums or chemicals.
Chocolate Coconut Pudding topped with Salted Hazelnuts (my recipe was supposed to serve 10, but somehow 4 people devoured it, including the serving I was saving for the photo). Just take your favorite chocolate pudding recipe, trade tapioca flour for the cornstarch and coconut milk or light coconut milk for the milk and voila. Roast some hazelnuts, rub off the skins as much as possible, and sprinkle with sea salt while still warm. Roughly chop and sprinkle on top.
Coconut-Date Chia Muesli. Parve. Serves 1.
Muesli made correctly is rolled oats, nuts, and dried fruit soaked overnight in milk or yogurt. The soaking makes the grains, nuts and fruits super-digestible. Chia seeds replace oats in this version, but remember to drink plenty of water or other liquids when consuming chia seeds (or flax seeds, for that matter); they are super-absorbent and can cause intestinal blockages if overeaten or eaten dry. This is not a low-calorie food.
3 Tablespoons chia seeds
About a cup of coconut milk
1 large Medjool date, pitted and chopped
4 almonds or other nuts, slivered or chopped (optional)
1/2 ripe banana, sliced thin
Mix chia seeds into coconut milk in a bowl or cup, stirring well. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then stir again. Stir in finely chopped date and almonds and refrigerate overnight (at least 6 hours). Stir in banana or other fruit if you like in the morning. You can substitute two teaspoons raw honey for the date.
*Someone who shall remain nameless who happens to live in my home, ate the muesli before I could photograph it. Hence the generic coconut photo. Forget about a picture of the pudding, 4 people inhaled it. I thought I’d have at least 2 cups left over for a photo.
Coconut photo: Yes. Aravind. Wikipedia commons.