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Coconut in Cooking - Vegan Dishes Get the Yum Factor

Posted May 02 2009 9:48am
I wish that I lived in the tropics. The closest that I've come to that was the 7 years that I spent living in Florida, which is semi-tropical, while going to college and graduate school. My backyard contained a number of tropical trees: mango , star fruit, orange (which turned out to be sour oranges much to my disgust) and papaya, but no coconut.Friends grew sapote (of which there are many varieties), kumquat, grapefruit, lemons and limes but still no coconut.

I am sure that coconut has sustained people in tropical climates for thousands of years, if not longer. There is great debate about whether coconut oil or coconut, in general, is helpful or harmful when it comes to fat intake. Rather than enter that fray, I'd just like to say that I love the way that coconut tastes and the flavor that it adds to vegan dishes, especially the Thai and Indian types.

The good news for coconut lovers, like me, is that there are now many different forms in which you can buy your coconut from coconut milk beverage and yogurt by So Delicious, coconut cream, coconut milk -- lite and regular and coconut water. The latter is best if you are following a low- or fat-free diet.

If you do use the regular or lite coconut milk, here is tip that I want to share, after my sister discovered an unusable can of leftover coconut milk in my Mom's refrigerator -- if you do not use all your coconut milk, freeze what's left in ice cube trays or small containers in amounts from 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup, which are amounts that you might use in a recipe.

I rarely use an entire can unless I am making a dish that serves at least 8 people. My choice most of the time these days is coconut water which provides coconut flavor and no fat. The dishes are not as rich but that's fine with me -- I am usually going for flavor, and that's what I call the "yum factor."

If you want more great info on freezing food, visit Mark Bittman's column in the New York Times.
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