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The I [heart] Coconuts Post – swell

The I [heart] Coconuts Post

Coconut Smoothie
Coconut+Cleaver [and not my chopping surface ;)]
Shaved Coconut
Cracked Coconut
Removing Coconut Meat
Vanilla Coconut Pudding
Green Cocolada Smoothie

Because, really, I do.  And with projected temperatures in the 70s this week, I’m feeling downright tropical.

It seems that lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reading blogs and not blogging much on my own.  The horrors!  One very valid reason is that I’m now working two jobs, the second (and part-time) one as a prep chef at a raw restaurant, so there will probably be a even more raw-inspired food coming your way than the warmer months normally warrant in my house.  I love this new job so far, and it couldn’t have been an easier job to start; it was like walking into my own kitchen, except with many many more Vita-Mix containers and a whole dehydrating room and a commercial juicer and food processor and a walk-in cooler full of gorgeous produce and nuts and seeds.  They handed me some recipes and I went to town!  I even got to create some raw cookies on my first day – I whipped up some pistachio-date cookies flavored with orange zest and cardamom.  Yum!

But even before this good news, as any longtime readers of my blog will know, I love me some coconuts.  In any form.  Whether it’s coconut milk in Coconut Red Bean Quinoa or shredded coconut in Cardamom-Orange-Coconut Flaxjacks or a little bit of everything in the GF Coconut Lime Cupcakes with Avocado Lime Frosting, it’s probably one of my favorite ingredients and one reason why I could never do a low-fat diet (the other major reason being avocado).  But most of all, I’ve developed a deep love for Thai young coconuts.  I even bought myself an inexpensive coconut-cleaving knife (although I may need to upgrade to something heavier and a bit sharper soon), and last week saw me dashing to three different Asian markets to find fresh ones and avoid paying the more-than-double co-op price.  I drink the cool water on its own and I’ll eat the “meat” straight from the coconut, but I also like adding it to puddings and making smoothies and soups.

Opening a coconut can be an intimidating experience if you’ve never done it before.  Personally, I don’t think you really need a special knife unless you plan on opening lots of them – your largest and heaviest knife will do.  You do need some good aim, though, because, without some practice, you don’t want your other hand anywhere near the coconut when you bring your knife down into it!  There are many different methods illustrated in videos and pictures online, but I’ll share my current at-home method (and you can check out the accompanying pictures) for opening and scraping a young coconut:

  • Start by shaving off the outer white “skin” on the pointed end of the coconut with your knife.  (A young coconut will not have the brown hairy husk of the more commonly found mature coconut at some regular supermarkets, and will be cut into a cylindrical shape with a flat base and a pointed top.)  This makes it easier to see and access the harder shell underneath.  Though not entirely necessary, I’ve found that this step makes it easier to crack the coconut since there’s a bit less depth for the knife to get through.
  • Stand the coconut upright on its flattened base.  With your non-knife hand held at your side (or somewhere else away from your chopping surface), place the butt-end of your knife along the edge of the shaved portion, lift up high, and strike it forcefully into the top of the coconut.  With any luck, you’ll feel it penetrate the harder shell.  If not, try again.  Rotate the coconut slightly and make new cuts until you’ve created a circular “lid” (kind of like when you’re preparing a pumpkin for carving).  You might get a little splash of coconut water during this process, and that’s okay…just resist the urge to turn the coconut on its side because the delicious water will start leaking out.  With the right kind of knife and a lot of practice, you only need to make about 5 cuts, but I find I need to make a few more to be able to open it using the knife I have at home.
  • Carefully wedge your knife into one of the cuts and pry off the lid.  At this point you can stick your lips right on the coconut and drink the water happily (this is me in summer), or pour it into a measuring cup or small bowl.  I usually get around 1.5-2 cups of water per coconut, though it varies.
  • Using a spoon turned upside down (or a special scraper like the one Kristen Suzanne recommends), separate the coconut meat from the inside of the shell.  It will work with the spoon turned right side up, but I find you’ll get larger pieces that are easier to pull out with the spoon turned the other way.  [Check out the picture above where I'm separating the coconut meat from the lid.]  Use the spoon, a paring knife, or your nimble fingers to scrape off any little chunks that might stick to the meat.

Hooray!  You now have fresh and delicious coconut meat and water.  And if you haven’t got any recipes tucked away that you’ve wanted to try once you give young coconuts a go, I’m giving you two!  Both work best in a blender, but will still be delicious even if they’re not quite as smooth as a result of a less-powerful blender or food processor.  I’ve tried to offer substitutions where applicable, since I know many people won’t have vanilla beans or spirulina on hand (I don’t, normally, either).

And if, after this, you’re still not totally into the idea of opening a young coconut but want to give the recipes a try, check your local Asian or Indian markets for frozen fresh coconut (I like the larger, chipped kind best) and many regular supermarkets for coconut water.  It won’t taste quite the same, but is pretty decent in a pinch.  (I wouldn’t recommend trying this out with dried shredded coconut unless you don’t mind a fairly chunky texture.)

Vanilla-Coconut Pudding
(makes one decadent portion, or two smaller portions)

meat and water from one Thai young coconut
2-3 dates, pitted (agave or coconut sap nectar to taste may also be used)
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped if not using a high-speed blender, or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

If your dates aren’t soft and sticky, soak them in water for 20 minutes or so to soften up.  Starting with 1 cup of coconut water, place all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until smooth and creamy, adding additional coconut water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Green Cocolada Smoothie
makes two servings (or one large)

meat and water from one young coconut
3/4-1 cup frozen pineapple (fresh can be used but the smoothie will be thinner and less cold)
1 frozen banana
1 tsp spirulina powder (or a handful of spinach leaves) (optional)
1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

*Note – frozen fruit works best to achieve that creamy, smooth texture, but fresh fruit will still be tasty.  Experiment with other fruits if you like (peaches were yummy!).

19 Responses to “The I [heart] Coconuts Post”

  1. jessy says:

    i have been reading more blog posts than actually posting lately as well, A-K; it’s all good. that’s so awesome on scoring the second job as a prep chef at a raw restaurant (jealousface!)! i look forward to all the glorious raw recipes you’ll be sharing (yay!) – as i’m trying to incorporate more raw yummies into my everyday eats.

    i finally received my copy of your cooking zine yesterday. squeeeeeeeeeee! when i had first ordered it from cosmo’s a few weeks ago they told me they were all out (sadface), but Leigh contacted me last week about more being in stock so i ordered one. i can’t wait to break into it and make all of your coconutty recipes, and you bet i’ll be making both the vanilla-coconut pudding and your green cocolada smoothie (i just need to grab some spirulina from the bulk section at my local natural food store), too. thanks for the recipes, and hooray for some super nice weather!

    • A-K says:

      Oh I’m so glad you got hold of your zine! And I’m glad to hear people are excited for more raw recipes, because it’s all I can think to make lately :)

  2. Kiersten says:

    Fresh coconuts should be sold with step-by-step instructions like this! I have always been way too intimidated to try to open one myself. Actually, I’m just afraid that when I try to hack it I’ll hurt myself…which is not unusual for me.

    • A-K says:

      Hopefully this will inspire you to be more adventurous, though I hope no accidents happen! I would hate to have that on my conscience :/

  3. Courtney says:

    I am SO jealous of your new job and all that you are going to learn, lol. We will HAVE to do a kitchen date soon so you can teach me all of your new knowledge! Seriously–it’ll be fun :-) Congratulations (again) on the new gig!


  4. Kate says:

    Mmm.. you’ve inspired me to hunt down some young coconuts – that pudding look amazing. Nice bowl, too. ;)

  5. Melly says:

    Congratulations on the new job! Love, love, love your photographs.

  6. veganlisa says:

    I have been slow to come around and openly admit an admiration for coconuts. I have always loved coconut milk in my soups and curries but since adopting a high raw diet I have found coconut to be an incredible addition to smoothies, puddings, and of course ice creams.

    Every time I visit your blog I am impressed by the beautiful, simple aesthetic. I just love it.

    I’m really excited about your new job (although I’m sure balancing two is tough). I look forward to hearing more about your recipe experiments in the future.

    • A-K says:

      Lisa, you flatter me! Thanks for your kind words. Slow to come around how? Meaning just slow to learn to use it in raw recipes?

  7. Heather says:

    I love it – such beautiful pics – what a great way to break down the opening of a coconut. Excellent smoothie recipes – I love spirulina and coconut together!

  8. Mihl says:

    Congrats on your new job! It sounds exiting.

    I am jealous, very lealous! I wish I had access to fresh young coconuts.

  9. Michal says:

    I love coconuts, it is one of my most favorite things ever. :)
    Congratulations on your new job as well!

  10. mary says:

    I also loooooove coconut. It’s the primary reason I could never do a totally local diet. I can only imagine that smoothie with peaches! I had something very similar for breakfast this morning, but I made it with coconut milk. I’m actually thinking about making some coconut cupcakes this afternoon… Yum!

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