Tag Archives: coconut

Crunch Time

Hazelnut-Coconut-Blackcurrant Granola

It wasn’t a baguette I wanted, when the dentist finally gave me carte blanche to eat anything at all. I needed something more violent, something with so much crunch it prevented me from hearing the person next to me speak. It came in the form of a hazelnut granola.

When I settled on what to stir into the oats – hazelnuts (hardly chopped), fat strips of chewy unsweetened coconut, and sticky black currants – it sounded like quite a mouthful.

But I wanted the kind of granola that needs to be shoveled in on overloaded spoonfuls, the kind whose deep, sweet flavors force a person to inadvertently take bites so big that a little piece, maybe a cluster of ginger-scented oats or a whole toasted hazelnut, pops right out and splashes back into the bowl. I needed a breakfast that dropped flavors into every crevice in my mouth (especially the ones that used to be off-limits).

So yes, hazelnut-coconut-blackcurrant granola is a bit of a mouthful. But my mouth was ready.

Hazelnut-Coconut-Blackcurrant Granola 2

Hazelnut-Coconut-Blackcurrant Granola (PDF)
If you can find it, unsweetened large flake coconut is the best type for this recipe. I use the kind made by Bob’s Red Mill, which comes in fat shavings about an inch long.

For extra nutty flavor, use a nut oil instead of plain old canola.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: about 15 cups granola

3 cups hazelnuts
1 cup honey
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 18-ounce container (6 1/2 cups) old-fashioned oats
2 cups unsweetened large flake coconut
1 cup dried blackcurrants (about 6 ounces)
1/3 cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup canola or nut oil (such as walnut, hazelnut, or pecan oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the hazelnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until the nuts’ skins crack and begin to lift off the nuts themselves. Let cool for 10 minutes, or until the skins stop crackling and whispering. (You’ll hear them.) Transfer the nuts to a clean tea towel a handful at a time, and rub between layers of the towel to remove as much of the loose skins as possible. When all the nuts are rubbed mostly clean (no need to be too strict, ya hear?), give them a rough chop and transfer them to a large mixing bowl.

Combine the honey and brown sugar in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Set aside.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the hazelnuts, and stir until very well blended. Drizzle the honey and sugar mixture on top, and stir again until the sweeteners coat all ingredients.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. Divide the granola between the two sheets, spreading it into an even layer on each sheet, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring the granola and rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front a few times during baking. The granola is done when it’s uniformly deep golden brown.

Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheets, undisturbed. Break apart and store in an airtight container.

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Filed under Breakfast, gluten-free, recipe, vegetarian

Butter and coconut

cheryl's double-chocolate coconut cookies

When a pound of butter stands up in the fridge and yells – really hollers – about not being used enough around here these days, it’s dangerous not to listen.

That’s what happened yesterday. I got to thinking about macaroons, and my butter’s blocky limbs started waving around every time I went for the juice. My friend Cheryl, who’s my instant go-to when it comes to anything coconut, told me to hold off on the macaroons, if my mouth wasn’t up for the chewing.

“Patience, sister, patience,” she wrote. “The only thing worse than not having macaroons is having to eat them gingerly. Macaroons are meant to be chewed and gnawed over. Wait until you’re good and ready.”

She was right, of course. But the butter.

I turned to one of her recipes, a real homage to coconut with enough chocolate to make my heart start pounding in one quick glance. (It’s funny. I’d made them before, for a personal chef client, but I’d never actually tried them myself, because I didn’t think I’d like the coconut. How times change.)

I made a few minor adjustments, adding whole wheat flour – nothing you’ll really notice – and substituting dark chocolate chips for Cheryl’s milk chocolate chunks. (I also skipped the 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, simply because I didn’t have it, but I’m sure it would be delicious.) The cookies had just the coconut flavor I craved, and a consistency soft enough for my tender palate.

Last night, a friend of ours got a sweet new job offer, so we took the batch to their house, to share, and celebrate. Then today, my friend Sarah and I spent the morning gardening in the rain, and Cheryl’s cookies were really just the thing, when we got tired of pulling weeds.

I’m a little embarrassed to say the cookies gone already. (It’s been 25 hours.)

Thank goodness I have more butter.

Cheryl’s Double-Chocolate Coconut Cookies (PDF)
This recipe, by Cheryl Sternman Rule, has been changed only slightly from its original incarnation, which appeared in Lora Brody’s tasty chronicle of Yankee flavor, The New England Table. Cheryl’s note in the original says the cookies will freeze beautifully, but I doubt you’ll have any left.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: three dozen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup regular cocoa powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets (or three, if you have three oven racks) with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.

Sift the first five ingredients into a medium bowl, and set aside. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times along the way. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add the vanilla, and mix well. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and blend just until incorporated. Fold in the coconut and chocolate chips.

Drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, about 12 cookies per sheet. (Bake in the center of the oven for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. The cookies are done when the edges are firm and the centers lose their shine. (You will never see them brown, obviously.) Cool cookies on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Filed under Cookies, dessert, recipe

The sandwich I really wanted

Curried Coconut Chicken Salad 1

The toothbrush I’ve been using for the last two weeks is wimpy. It’s a fat blue thing, designed for the floppy hands of someone doped up on Vicodin for much longer than I was, with a pittance of soft bristles that do more mopping than actual brushing. It’s the dead fish handshake of the toothbrush world. I hated it.

Today, I graduated to a specially-designed “sensitive brush,” which is about halfway to the real thing. I never knew I could be so excited about a toothbrush. But I am, because it heralds a sure march back to the world of real food.

I was three bites in, last Saturday in Colorado, when I realized I was eating bread for the first time in more than a week. It was store-bought garlic bread, the spineless, squishy kind that you warm up in a metallic bag. As we shoveled it in late that night, mopping up the last of two Stouffer’s lasagnas, it occurred to me that there are times when good, crusty bread is exactly what you don’t want. We were gathered in John’s kitchen after the service, ten people perched on chairs and counters and stairs instead of spread out at the table in the next room. I thought it fitting, how even though Susie wasn’t there with us, we were gathered around the spot where she might have been, eating food that comforted us the way she did. (A kitchen always comforts, I guess.) I couldn’t imagine a better meal.

For me, of course, biting into the bread without risking dental upheaval was a nice thrill. I felt like I’d advanced to a new level of healing. I got cocky.

On the way back to the airport the next day, we hit a café in Glenwood Springs, where we saw a coconut curried chicken salad sandwich on the board. (You know how I feel about chicken salad.) Just saying the word “sandwich” made me feel like a reckless teenager; the idea of shredded coconut in chicken salad delighted me to the point of public squealing. (I’ve never been a big coconut fan before, beyond the milk, but I think it’s safe to say I’m on the front end of an undeniable love affair with the stuff. It must have started with lust for something I couldn’t have. Doesn’t it always.)

I hung back in line at the café to gauge the sandwich’s safety, see if looked soft enough to eat, and when I saw one come out on a wheaty version of Wonder bread, I decided to take the plunge. I’d chewed the garlic bread without doing any damage – how different could it be, eating a doughy sandwich with mushy stuff inside?

Mouth-wise, it was fine; I took tiny bites and rolled everything back to the good molars, away from the still-tender tissue in the front of my mouth. I have graduated to soft sandwiches, too.

The chicken salad was another story. There were big, dry chunks of chicken, slathered with a curried mayonnaise too thin to give the salad any real mouthfeel, along with overwithered cranberries and zilch in the way of coconut. I was happy to be eating regular food, but disappointed that the sammy’s insides didn’t have much in the way of flavor, especially given the amount of mayonnaise involved.

Today, spurred by sandwiches in the news, I made the flavorful, yeilding chicken salad I’d wanted. I slathered chicken breasts with spices and roasted them right on the bone, so they stayed moist, and whirled the meat around in my KitchenAid, so it got good and shreddy without much effort from my hands. I added Madras curry, and thick Greek yogurt, and the bittiest dollop of real mayonnaise, along with basil and scallions and a hefty dose of toasted unsweetened coconut. It stirred up into the sort of fine-textured chicken salad that makes you want to get out the ice cream scoop, an avocado half, and a fat butter lettuce leaf, and pretend it’s 1975.

I know it will be better tomorrow, when the curry has had more of chance to do its business, but waiting didn’t seem to be an option today. I piled it onto my favorite seeded bread (have your sandwiches met Dave yet? He’s our new hero.), along with fat slices of avocado, and ate myself silly.

Going for the seeded bread was a little aggressive (even though I put the toast on a wet cutting board before assembling the sandwich, so it would soften a little), but now that I’ve conquered the sandwich, I have big aspirations for this almost-healed mouth of mine. Tomorrow, I’ll have another scoop of chicken salad, maybe on naan or soft pita.

But soon, I’ll be eating apples and tortilla chips and, big, sharp slabs of chocolate. Just you wait.

Curried Coconut Chicken Salad 2

Curried Coconut Chicken Salad (PDF)
In my opinion, chicken salad is best when the chicken is shredded, as opposed to cubed, because it allows the flavorings – in this case freshly chopped basil, scallions, curry, and a delicious dose of toasted coconut – to wedge themselves into little crevices, in each and every bite. I “shred” my chicken in a stand mixer because it’s easier for me, but you could certainly use your hands or a fork. Adding chopped apples and walnuts or cashews would make this is a more traditional curried chicken salad.

Before you begin adding curry powder, taste it first, and judge how much you need based on its strength.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: enough for 4 or 5 sandwiches

2 large chicken breasts on the bone (about 2 pounds total)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 (7 ounce) container 2% Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions
1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the chicken in a large pan fitted with a roasting rack. Stir the olive oil and one teaspoon of the curry powder together in a small bowl with the salt and a good grinding of pepper, and rub the mixture all over the chicken, in a thin layer. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees at the thickest part on an instant-read thermometer. Set aside to cool.

When cool, pull the chicken off the bone and cut it into 1” pieces. (You should have a generous three cups.) In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, shred the chicken using on-off motions until you reach the desired consistency. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, plus the yogurt, mayonnaise, scallions, basil, and coconut. Stir to blend, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Filed under chicken, Lunch, recipe