Food of the Week: Coconut

I often think of my brother when I’m eating coconut. He hates it. It’s a texture thing for him, so I think he would still enjoy the recipes in this column that use coconut milk but not shredded coconut. Coconut oil rounds out a trio of coconut products that can enrich your diet.

Coconut oil is growing in popularity for its beneficial types of saturated fat. Coconut flesh, and milk to a lesser extent, is also a good source of several minerals, especially manganese and copper. Coconut water, meanwhile, has been all the rage lately as an exercise recovery drink because of its high electrolyte content.

In addition to the recipes below, try adding coconut to the menu in these ways: mix flaked/shredded coconut into yogurt, cookie dough, or muffin batter; substitute coconut oil for butter in certain recipes; use coconut milk as a cocktail mixer (it’s great with vodka on ice) or in hot chocolate, soups, or salad dressings.

Honeydew, Cucumber,
and Coconut Soup

One of those nice chilled soups perfect for a hot summer day.

1 honeydew melon, seeded and cut into large chunks
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
¾ c. coconut milk
¼ c. shaved or shredded unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted

In a food processor or blender, puree the melon, cucumber, and coconut milk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Serve topped with toasted coconut.

Curried Coconut Chicken

1-2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. curry powder
½ onion, thinly sliced
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
14-oz. can coconut milk
14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
8-oz. can tomato sauce
3 T. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for about two minutes. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the chicken, reduce heat to medium, and cook for about eight minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Add the coconut milk, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar to the pan, cover, and simmer 30–40 minutes.

Notes: You can also easily prepare this by combining all the ingredients in a crock pot, in which case it’s easier to start with whole chicken breasts and shred them after they’re cooked. You can substitute a can of tomato paste for the tomato sauce, adding some water if a thinner consistency is desired.

Coconut Creamsicles

A dessert coconut lovers will adore.

1 c. coconut milk
¾ c. evaporated milk
½ c. sugar
¾ c. sweetened, flaked coconut
1 t. vanilla

Warm the first four ingredients on medium-high heat about six minutes, or until it just starts to bubble. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit on stove for one hour. Stir in vanilla and freeze in popsicle molds. If you don’t have popsicle molds, you can use ice cube trays and toothpicks.

Orange Coconut Balls

Simple and delicious, like much ball-shaped food is.

1 ¼ c. vanilla wafers, crushed
¾ c. flaked coconut
¾ c. powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
½ (6 oz.) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Combine the ingredients and mold into 1-in. balls, rolling them in additional powdered sugar. Store in the refrigerator.  

Note: Trader Joe’s makes vanilla wafers that are trans fat-free.

Watermelon Coconut Cooler

1 c. cubed, chilled watermelon
½ c. chilled coconut milk
1 t. chopped fresh mint (opt.)
Sweetener to taste (opt.)

Blend ingredients thoroughly and enjoy. Serves 1.

Coconut Breakfast
Cakes with Coconut Syrup

The cakes are an Ani Phyo recipe. Because they’re very high in fiber, I recommend keeping portions small. I enjoyed these, especially with the syrup, but you may want to try a half recipe first. I can imagine people considering them wacky and too health-foody.

3 c. ground flax seeds
2 T. liquid coconut oil
½ c. agave nectar or maple syrup
½ t. sea salt
¼ c. water
Chopped walnuts (opt.)
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl. Form into balls and flatten into cakes, about ¼ to ½-in. thick. To serve, drizzle with coconut syrup (below), or another syrup or topping of your choice. Mixture keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.

1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
1 c. shredded coconut
¾ c. brown sugar
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and stir occasionally for 5–15 minutes, until desired thickness is reached. If desired, puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Coconut Buns

Not all that coconutty tasting, but still tasty. Easy peasy if you have a bread machine.

½ c. shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
2 T. sugar
1 package (¼ oz.) active dry yeast
½ c. warm water
3 ½ c. flour
¾ t. salt
1 c. coconut milk
3 T. softened butter, coconut oil, or non-hydrogenated shortening

Put all ingredients in a bread machine and use the dough setting. Once dough is complete, divide into 8–12 pieces and roll into balls, using a floured surface and hands. Put on greased baking sheets 3–4 inches apart and let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes. Bake at 350° 20– 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Note: If you don’t have a bread machine, follow these directions to make the dough: combine the first four ingredients in a nonreactive bowl, stir, and set aside until swollen and bubbly, about 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt, then add remaining ingredients, including the yeast mixture. Stir, knead until soft and elastic, about 5 minutes, and let rise in a clean large bowl until double in size, about 1 ½ hrs.