A Toast to Coconut

toasted-coconutOften, all you have to do to change the flavor of an entire dish is toy with a single ingredient.  Take an ingredient you’d normally serve raw, for example, and cook it.  (Grilled peaches!)  Or serve a normally-cooked ingredient raw.  (The brilliance of sushi!)  Ingredients aren’t always flippable in terms of cooked vs. raw, of course, so obviously avoid things like raw poultry and raw shellfish.  Likewise, grains and legumes have to either be cooked – or soaked and sprouted – to make them human-gut-friendly.

You can also do a sweet/savory flip.  By that, I mean take elements or ingredients that are normally served in a sweet dish and put them in a savory dish or vice versa.  Chocolate is an intrinsic part of savory mole sauce, and many spices that we think of a “sweet” are used in main courses elsewhere in the world: cinnamon is prevalent in Moroccan dinners, Indians use ginger every which way, Scandinavians freely include coriander in savory settings.  On the savory-to-sweet side of things, black beans go startlingly well with dark chocolate brownies, and beets add a tasty twist to cakes.

One of my recent favorite flippables falls into the raw-gone-cooked category: toasted coconut.  Any kind of toasted nut is a treat in my book, but coconut seems to gain an even more favorable edge when it’s toasted to a golden brown.  And once it’s toasted, you could include it in sweet or savory settings.  Toast it before folding it into cake batter, for example, or toast it before sprinkling it over an Asian-themed salad.  You could even stir toasted coconut into plain yogurt for something a little different.  (If you have an ice cream maker, make Toasted Coconut Ice Cream!)

This particular batch of toasted coconut went onto pineapple and peaches to make a quick breakfast fruit salad.  The five-minute sautée is well worth it!  Not only does the savory nuttiness of the toasted coconut bring out the sweetness of the fruit, the high-quality fat (i.e., urefined) in the coconut enables you to reap all of the vitamins from the fruit – vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that you need to consume fat with the vitamins to benefit from them.  Just eating the fruit straight wouldn’t cut it, not unless the fruit was part of a larger breakfast that included a fat source.

To toast coconut, make sure you have UNSWEETENED flaked coconut.  Place a dry nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1 minute, then add coconut and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently so that all of the flakes brown evenly.  The coconut is ready when it’s golden-brown and fragrant.  Immediately pull skillet off the heat and slide coconut onto a cool plate to stop it from continuing to cook and possibly burn.

Toasted coconut is best enjoyed immediately.  It’s true that you can store cooled coconut in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week, but it will lose its lovely crunch, and part of the final flavor seems to depend quite a bit on that crunch.  But if you’re going to incorporate the toasted coconut into something wet, like yogurt or ice cream, then the crunch isn’t nearly as important.  Still, toasting coconut is so easy that you might as well eat your batches as you go.


Courtesy of Cultured Cook.

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Sweet, Creamy Breakfasts in 10 Minutes

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