Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Recipes: Going Coo Coo for Coconuts!

When coconuts are accesible, here are a few recipes from to maximize your enjoyment and get true variety from this tropical staple.

This trendy ingredient brings a touch of tropical flavor to your prepared foods case.

By Joanna Pruess

Ah, coconuts! As food-loving travelers to India and Asia know well, dishes that include the hard-shelled fruit (botanically, they aren’t nuts) of the coconut palm add style and elicit thoughts of tropical settings.
Where once only fresh coconuts, canned milk and sweetened shreds were readily stocked in American markets, today choices include shelled coconut meat; bottled coconut water (a new health-food darling); regular and light canned milk; sweetened or unsweetened flakes in a variety of sizes; as well coconut palm sugar, coconut syrup, extract and oil. In fact, food professionals are touting extra virgin coconut oil as one of the most healthful cooking oils.
The golden brown shreds add texture and a rich flavor to simple dishes like sautéed flounder with a coconut-pecan crust. (The trick is to watch that the coating doesn’t burn.) When toasted, coconut’s taste stands up to spicy flavors, including Cajun remoulade sauce. For a shrimp rice salad, layer several coconut-based ingredients, starting with cooking the rice in coconut water. Coconut palm sugar in the dressing adds a slightly caramel sweetness while coconut milk makes it creamy, and the flakes in the salad give it a crunch. Coconut desserts can be cloying and heavy, but a not-to-sweet brûlée topped with a sprinkle of toasted coconut and a thin slice of mango create a creamy, light finish to any meal.

Coconut Shrimp Rice Salad

Yield: 24 (8-ounce) portions 
Preparation time: 45 minutes 
Shelf life: 3 days

Cook the rice in this main-course salad in coconut water, rather than coconut milk, to add a subtle hint of flavor. Sweeten the dressing with coconut palm sugar, which comes from the sap and nectar of the coconut palm tree.
  • 6 cups coconut water
  • 4 cups jasmine rice
  • ¼ cup vegetable or coconut oil, plus ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 2½ pounds rock shrimp or peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • ¾ to 7/8 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ cup Thai fish sauce
  • ½ cup coconut palm sugar
  • 4 ounces fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 ounces red Mexican chiles, chopped, plus 2 ounces minced red chile pepper
  • ½ ounce garlic
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced scallions, including most of the green parts
  • 6 ounces chopped pistachios, plus 1 ounce to garnish
  • 4 ounces coconut flakes, toasted, plus ½ ounce for garnish
  • 2 ounces fresh basil leaves, finely julienned, plus ½ ounce for garnish
1. Combine coconut water, rice and ¼ cup of oil in a saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Turn into a large strainer, rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, cook shrimp until just done. Set aside to cool. If jumbo shrimp, cut in three pieces and add to the rice.
3. In the jar of an electric blender, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, ¾ cup lime juice, Thai fish sauce, palm sugar, ginger, 2 ounces of red chiles and garlic; purée until smooth. With the motor running, add ¾ cup of vegetable oil and let it emulsify.
4. Add scallions, pistachios, coconut flakes, basil leaves and the remaining minced red chile pepper to the rice. Pour about two-thirds of the dressing over the salad and toss to blend. Add remaining dressing and additional lime juice, if desired. Transfer to a serving platter and add remaining pistachios, coconut flakes and basil leaves as garnishes. 
NUTRITIONAL DATA (per 8-ounce portion): Calories: 360; Cholesterol: 120 mg; Sodium: 720 mg; Fat: 21 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g

Crispy Coconut-Pecan Crusted Flounder with Cajun Remoulade

YieldCoconut-Pecan Crusted Flounder: 24 portions of fish with 2 tablespoons of sauce
Preparation time: 25 minutes 
Shelf life: 2 days

These sautéed fillets with a crunchy coconut-pecan mustard crust should appeal to many customers. Serve with a piquant chipotle-flavored remoulade sauce, best made about an hour ahead of time, or a tangy fresh mango salsa. 
For the Cajun Remoulade:
(Yield about 4 cups)

  • 2½ cups mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup chipotle mustard
  • 7 ounces red onion, minced
  • 3 ounces gherkins, minced
  • 2½ ounces drained capers, chopped 
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons Cajun spice
For the fish:
  • 2-3 cups all-purpose flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups unsweetened shredded coconut 
  • 4 cups pecans, finely chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 24 (6- to 7-ounce) flounder or other skinless firm white fish fillets, blotted dry 
  • ¾ to 1 cup Dijon mustard 
  • Vegetable or coconut oil, for frying
1. First make the Cajun Remoulade: Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, stir to blend, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. 
2. For the fish: Put the seasoned flour in a flat dish. In a second flat dish, combine the coconut and pecans with 2 teaspoons of salt.
3. Dip each fillet in flour, dusting off any extra. Brush one side with mustard and put it in the coconut-pecan mixture, pressing lightly to cover completely. Repeat on other side of fillet.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillet and cook until golden on each side, about 2½ to 3 minutes per side, turning once. Remove and keep warm.
NUTRITIONAL DATA (per portion): Calories: 340; Cholesterol: 105 mg; Sodium: 1,040 mg;
Fat: 18 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g

Coconut-Ginger Crème Brûlée with Sliced Mango and Berry Coulis

Coconut-Ginger Creme BruleeYield: 24 (4-ounce) portions
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus baking
Shelf life: at least 3 days

Crème brûlée is a wonderful medium in which to showcase coconut. 
  • 6 ounces crystallized ginger, minced
  • 12 ounces coconut rum, or 6 ounces light rum mixed with 6 ounces coconut syrup
  • 24 large egg yolks
  • 9 ounces sugar
  • 3 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 21 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Toasted sweetened coconut shreds, to garnish
  • 24 small mango slices, to garnish
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine ginger and coconut rum in a small bowl and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together with a whisk until pale yellow and thick.
3. Heat coconut milk and heavy cream in a saucepan until small bubbles form on the edge of the pan. Slowly whisk a little of the heated coconut milk mixture into the egg yolks to raise temperature; then slowly whisk in the remaining milk. Stir in salt and soaked ginger. Ladle ½ cup of the mixture into 24 ramekins.
4. Put ramekins in a roasting pan, add enough water to the pan to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins, cover with foil and bake until edges are set but centers move slightly when the cups are gently shaken, about 45 minutes.
5. Remove ramekins from the water, uncover and chill until cold. Recover and chill overnight or until needed. Garnish each cup of custard with a teaspoon of toasted coconut and a small slice of mango.
NUTRITIONAL DATA (per 4-ounce portion): Calories: 290; Cholesterol: 220 mg; Sodium: 30 mg; Fat: 25 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g

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