Read an Excerpt
This book was written for people who love coconut. It was also written for the growing number of health-conscious individuals who recognize coconut as a marvelous health food and want to gain the many health benefits it provides.
Of particular interest is coconut oil, which has gained a reputation in recent years as a super health food. It is considered by nutritionists to be among the healthiest of all dietary oils. People who want to take advantage of the health benefits of coconut oil will find this book a blessing. It contains many creative ways to add the oil into the diet using a variety of delicious recipes.
Many people who live in non-coconut-growing regions of the world mistakenly think of coconut as just an ingredient for making desserts and sweets. Coconut, however, is very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways other than desserts.
How to Choose a Good Coconut
Fresh coconuts are available at most grocery stores, health food stores, and Asian markets. The quality of fresh coconuts varies greatly even in the same store. The age of the coconuts and how they are handled greatly affects quality. Coconuts that have been battered around and cracked spoil very quickly. Once a crack occurs in the shell, mold quickly develops inside. Most coconuts are shipped long distances over extended periods of time. You have no way of telling how old they are when you buy them. The older they are, the more likely they are to be moldy.
You can identify mold when you break open the coconut and see yellow or brown coloring in the meat, or smell an off odor. Sometimes you can smell mold on the outside of the coconut before breaking it open.
When choosing a fresh coconut, look for one without any cracks. If the coconut is damp or has wet spots, it means the shell is cracked and the coconut water is leaking. Shake the coconut to detect the swishing sound of the coconut water. If there is little or no water in the coconut, it is old or cracked. Avoid those with white spots, particularly around the “eyes.” The white is mold that has probably developed from water leaking from a tiny crack.
How to Open a Coconut
To open a coconut, first puncture two of the “eyes” and drain the water. Coconuts have three eyes. One of the eyes is soft and very easy to puncture; the other two are a bit more difficult. I use an ice pick. You may also use a hammer and nail. After draining the liquid, hold the coconut securely on a hard surface and hit it with a hammer. Coconut shells are very hard, so you will need to put some force into it.
Another way to crack a coconut shell is to place the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and heat it in the oven for 20 minutes at 400ºF (200ºC). After it is heated, tap the coconut all over to loosen the meat, then crack it with a hammer.
Break the shell up into several pieces. With a table knife, you can pry the meat off the shell. The meat will have a brown membrane or skin on it where it was in contact with the shell. You can trim this off with a vegetable peeler, but it is safe to eat with this membrane attached. If you see any brown or yellow discoloration in the white meat, it is mold. Small patches of mold can be cut off and discarded. Most coconuts will have a spot or two. If a lot of discoloration is present, throw the whole thing away.
And one of my favorite dinner recipes:
Thai Coconut Shrimp and Noodles ©
8 ounces (38 g) noodles
3 tablespoons (45 ml) coconut oil
1 cup (160 g) chopped onion
2 tablespoons (30 g) seeded and chopped green chili peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon (8 g) flour
1 can (14 ounces/400 ml) coconut milk
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fish sauce
½ pound (226 g) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons (2 g) finely chopped fresh cilantro
Prepare the noodles according to the package directions; drain and set aside. (Traditionally rice noodles are most commonly used in Thai cooking, but you can use any type of noodle you like.) In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 6 minutes, until tender. Add the green chili, garlic, and flour and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and fish sauce and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Add the shrimp and cilantro and continue to simmer until the shrimp is cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the noodles until well coated with sauce. Serve hot.
Serves 2 to 3