I’ve been in love with coconut since childhood, thanks to the blessing of having a Southern grandmother who loved to cook, and occasional access to candy bars as very special treats. My grandmother’s coconut cake was magnificent, and I still make it often, thankful that my sister Linda took time to sit with Grandmother and ask her how to make it. I make other coconut cakes too — I have yet to find one I don’t adore. I’m less enchanted by coconut-centric candy bars now, though my husband loves them and shares a bite or two with me when that’s the solution to the woes of a long car trip.
(Giveaway! Storey Publishing has provided me with a copy of Cooking with Coconut to share with one lucky reader away, so scroll to the bottom of this post to enter my free contest, through February 14, 2017)I found new reasons and ways to love coconut thanks to my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. There, coconut is a beloved and everyday ingredient, enjoyed in multiple forms, from fresh-off-the-tree juice to candies and sweet snacks, and especially as the source of coconut milk in soups, stews, and curries. You can imagine how joyful this coconut-a-phile was to learn last year that my friend Ramin Ganeshram, a prolific food writer, award-winning journalist, cookbook author, and chef, was at work on an entire cookbook about coconut. Cooking with Coconut: 125 Recipes for Healthy Eating and Delicious Uses for Every Form is out now and it is a treasure. (Buy it Here, Here and Here.)I requested a review copy from Storey Publishing, and have had the best (and most delicious) time examining, enjoying, and cooking from this new book. In addition to 125 recipes involving coconut in its many forms, this book looks at coconut in the round, from its history as an ingredient in American kitchens, to the numerous forms in which cooks can find it and use it. She provides nutritional information for this enduring and beloved ingredient, along with a cook’s glossary of culinary forms.It’s a beauty, handsomely designed and filled with vivid and inviting photographs. Matt Amendariz‘s superb photographs of recipes and still life pictures of ingredients make the book a visual feast, and location photos transported me to coconut-growing locations around the world. Ramin writes eloquently of how much this beloved world ingredient means to her, with her roots in the food and cooking of Trinidad on her father’s side, and in Persian cuisine on her mother’s side. Beyond its status as a trendy ingredient and superfood, coconut matters in kitchens worldwide, and her recipes include an array of traditional coconut-centric dishes with roots around the globe. I cooked three recipes, and I’m sharing one of them with you today. It’s for this spectacular Coconut Crab Pilaf. Remember to scoop out every bit including any golden crust that forms on the bottom of the pot.Ramin notes that this dish is Gluten Free and Dairy Free, and if you swap out the crab for some sauteed shiitake mushrooms and roasted butternut squash, crispy tofu, or edamame beans, you’ll have a superb vegan dish as well. In addition to the basic index by type of dish (Openings, Mains, Vegetables Legumes and Starches, Breakfasts, Desserts, and Drinks), the book is indexed by dietary type: Gluten Free; Dairy Free; and Paleo Friendly.I loved Dad’s Daily Coconut Bread, a quick bread which was wonderful freshly made and excellent toasted for several days on hand. The recipe makes two loaves so I froze one and enjoyed it later. While it looks more like a cake or tea bread in the photos, it works nicely like cornbread, a satisfying accompaniment to soup or a sheet pan supper.
I made this little extra treat so I wouldn’t have to wait for the loaves to cool down. Smart move.
Here’s the Very Berry Fiber-Rich Smoothie, which called for coconut milk, coconut, and flaxseed meal. I loved its nutty texture, and enjoyed it at breakfast and later in the day as a treat. It’s barely sweet, so I did boost it with a little brown sugar. Excellent either way. Recipes I’m trying soon include Jeweled Couscous, Hareesh, a coconut-semolina cake, lamingtons, and Trinidad Curried Crab and Dumplings.
For the Coconut Crab Pilaf, I used only one pound of crabmeat and found it to be plenty. You could get by with even less if it is more of an accompaniment than the main event. I used canned crabmeat with delicious results. I added finely chopped chives, and might add chopped cilantro or green onions next time. I didn’t have Scotch bonnet chile, so I used fresh serrano chile instead.
I’ll be giving away a copy of Cooking with Coconut to one lucky reader. To enter, simply leave me a comment on this post, telling me what you like about coconut, and how you use in your kitchen. I’ll draw a winner at random and get in touch for your mailing address. US addresses only. Enter by 11:59 pm on February 14th.)
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon West Indian curry powder
- 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 small Scotch bonnet chile, minced
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 1/2 pounds lump crabmeat
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)
- To wash the rice, place it in a deep bowl, and add enough cold water to cover it by three inches. Swirl the rice around with your hand until the water is cloudy. Carefully drain the water. Repeat this several times, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice well and set aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in a medium iron or enameled cast-iron pot or oven-safe saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and fry until the shallots begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and fry for 30 to 40 seconds longer.
- Add the drained rice and mix very well to coat, then stir in the stock and coconut milk. Add the chile, thyme Old Bay Seasoning, and salt. Stir well. Place in the oven, uncovered, and cook until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the oven and place on low heat on the stovetop. STir in the crabmeat and cover the pot. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Serve hot or warm.
Beautiful to look at and a satisfying crowd-pleasing centerpiece, this dish can be the main event or a central feature of a buffet including curries, hearty vegetarian dishes, and meats and vegetables from the grill. It reheats wonderfully, so consider this when you need a make-ahead winner.