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Posted on Sun. Jan. 12, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Versatile coconut a wonder food

The thing about coconut is that you either love it or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.

The coconut is a multi-talented food source, providing a form of meat, juice, milk and oil to countries around the world. It’s also rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Today, coconut is considered a wonder food. There are lots of coconut products available on grocery shelves these days, including shredded coconut, coconut milk, coconut flour and coconut oil.

Knowing what you’re getting and how to use it is key to making the most of your coconut experience.

Dried coconut is used in all kind of dishes. Coconut oil and coconut milk (which come from the flesh of the coconut) are used in cooking, baking and frying. Coconut water is the hot new product in the flavored-water aisle these days.

Now that you know how versatile the coconut is, go get some for these delicious recipes.

Coconut Cake with Chocolate Chunks and Coconut Drizzle

I love this recipe. I found it in “Bon Appetit” and have been making it ever since.

Cake:

1 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate bars broken into small pieces, divided

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Drizzle:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons (or more) unsweetened coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Dust pan with flour, shaking out excess.

For cake: Sift 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Stir in the unsweetened shredded coconut and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, butter and orange zest and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions alternately with coconut milk in two additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Fold in half of bittersweet chocolate pieces. Spread batter evenly in prepared cake pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate pieces over batter, then sprinkle with sweetened flaked coconut.

Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean (tent with sheet of foil if cake is browning too quickly), 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer cake to rack and cool in pan 45 minutes.

For drizzle: In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk and vanilla; mix to combine, adding more coconut milk by 1/2 teaspoonfuls until mixture is thin enough to drizzle over cake.

Place the cake on a serving platter and then drizzle the glaze over the top. Cool cake completely on platter. This is great with vanilla ice cream. Serves 10 to 12.

Coconut Vodka Pasta Sauce

1/2 cup oil

1 large onion, minced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 to 3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 cup vodka

2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Cork screw or bow tie pasta cooked al dente, kept warm

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion, garlic and celery in the oil until softened and just beginning to take on a brown color.

De-glaze with the vodka, stir well and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes (with the juice) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and cook 20 more minutes. Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree slightly, leaving some chunks.

Season with salt and pepper. You can serve immediately with the cooked pasta or refrigerate or freeze. Makes 2 quarts.


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