Tuesday, March 26, 2013
I spent far too many years of my young life unnecessarily overlooking, heck, even borderline disliking coconut. And this oversight of my youth, to me it’s just sad. Almost as sad as the amount of time I spent wearing drawstring waist cargo pants in the mid to late 1990s, but not quite that distressing. I have no earthly idea why it took me until my adult years (like the real adult years not 18-26) to come around to what is arguably now (alongside standbys peanut and chocolate) my favorite sweet flavor ever.
One of the best things about coconut to me is the power of its smell to trigger sense memory. One whiff of that warm nutty scent transports me to afternoons lathered up in sun tanning oil on Humarock beach with my girlfriends getting our leather on. This was, of course, before we all knew better and realized that in addition to potentially getting skin cancer we were also essentially ironing wrinkles into our future faces with this flagrant abuse of our skin. But regardless, the scent of coconut brings me to a deep state of relaxation and a time in my life when the only things I had to worry about was what to get on my turkey sub at lunch (why pickles and mayo of course) and what time my shift at Dribbles started.
So last week, when I happened across this recipe for a quick loaf of coconut bread, I promptly put the computer down, marched to my kitchen and whipped it together in about 10 minutes. Then, for the next hour, my whole house was progressively filled with the luxurious scent of warm, toasty coconut. It was much needed aromatherapy to the tenth degree on a day in late March where I had awoken at 5:30 a.m. to six inches of snow, which later turned to rain, then to hail, then to rain again. Inside the comfort of my kitchen, despite the disgusting weather outside, life was just beachy.
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
Approx. 1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Nonstick cooking spray or butter for pan
Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla and milk. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the sugar and coconut and stir together to mix. Make a well in the center and pour the egg mixture in, stir together gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Add the melted butter and stir together again until just smooth. Be careful not to overmix. This bread is fairly dense as is and if overmixed, methinks would turn into a total coconut brick.
Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Spread batter in and bake until a skewer or knife inserted in comes out clean. Between 1 and 1 ¼ hours. Mine took an hour and ten minutes exactly. My oven runs just slightly cool. Set the timer for an hour and if it’s still wet in the middle check it every five minutes or so until cooked. Let cool before serving.
This bread is not overly sweet by any means and mine was even less so due to the fact that I used un-sweetened flaked coconut because that’s all I had on hand. The serving suggestion on SK, to serve toasted with a bit of butter and a dusting of powdered sugar is straight heaven. I ate it every day for breakfast last week with a small bowl of yogurt (for good measure). Just a little touch of salty butter and a light dusting of sweet sugar makes this already yummy bread a totally transcendent breakfast treat.
This bread would be a killer addition to a brunch spread or would make an amazing base for a coconut almond sundae. Top a warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, chopped almonds and hot fudge. Heck, you could even have that for breakfast. You won’t find anyone to judge you for doing that here.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
I hate to complain about the weather. Because really, if we chose another thing that we could possibly have any less control over it would be what the sky is going to do on any given day. We got married outside in late September with not much of a backup plan to speak of. And while September is arguably the nicest month of the year in Massachusetts, it was a slightly risky thing to do. It could have been 50 degrees and cloudy, it could have been unseasonably sweltering but you know what it was? It was f*cking perfect. It was 70 degrees without a cloud in the sky or nary a ripple on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
People asked me a LOT in the weeks leading up to the wedding if I was worried about the weather or if I had checked the forecast. I responded the same every time: I can’t control it anyway, so why am I going to stress myself out about it? I’m actually impressed in hindsight at this Zen-ness I had embraced and I know that a lot of that ‘letting go’ mentality was thanks to a devoted and regular yoga practice and a devoted and regular wine drinking practice; and also, the fact that I just really did not want one more iota of information to manage in my overtaxed bridal brain.
So I feel like a traitor to my former Zen self when I admit that I have so had it up to here with this winter. I spent the better part of last Friday morning in a snowstorm induced mini meltdown during which I may or may not have chucked my snow shovel to the ground in frustration once or four times. I mean, get over it, really. Today, yes it is still cold, but the sun will be in the sky until well past 6 o’clock tonight and that, that my friends, is a win for US. This savory bowl of comfort food is a nod to this in between place that March occupies. Not quite yet finished with winter, but still we can see spring ahead. Healthy, practical and jazzed up by a verdant drizzle of deeply green infused oil that is both earthy and bright, it was the perfect lunch for right now.
SAVORY VEGETABLE BROTH with VINEGAR POACHED EGG,
FARRO and PARSLEY SCALLION OIL
1 leek, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 parsnip, peeled and finely diced
1 small onion, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (32 oz.) container chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cups water
1 cup farro or small pasta, prepared according to package directions (optional)
White wine or apple cider vinegar
1 small garlic clove, peeled and left whole
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, loosely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add leeks and onion and sauté until fragrant. Add carrots and parsnip to the pot and sauté another few minutes to soften. If it starts to get dry, add another small drizzle of olive oil. Add garlic to the pot and stir together until fragrant (about 1 minute). Pour in chicken stock and 1 cup water, season with a large pinch of salt and plenty of cracked black pepper; bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let cook until the root vegetables are cooked through (about 20 minutes). If your broth had reduced substantially, feel free to pour in another ½ cup of water. Test vegetables for doneness and season again, generously, with salt and pepper.
While the stock simmers, prepare the Parsley Scallion Oil: rub the garlic clove all over the inside of a small food processor. This sounds a bit weird but somewhere along my food obsessed travels, I saw someone do this trick with a salad bowl and rather than imparting the bracing, almost hot flavor of raw garlic into your oil, it really just sort of shows the garlic to the product. It’s a little bit coy in that sense. Combine parsley, scallions and ¼ cup olive oil. Top with a large pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper. Puree this for several minutes, pausing to scrape the bowl down a few times.
The end result should look like a slightly darker version of your favorite pesto, only even more mashed. Using a small mesh strainer (I have one for cocktails that is perfect here) drain the oil into a small glass or ramekin. Use the back of a soup spoon to press down, releasing more oil. Feel free here to work it a little, leave it to drip, then come back to it and press a bit more. You really only need a small drizzle of the finished product, so don’t stress if you’re not getting more than a few teaspoons. Infused oils like this one are a pretty and sophisticated way to jazz up a dish. I think this particular oil would be so delicious on a piece of poached or broiled white fish or salmon.
To vinegar poach an egg: bring a few cups of water and about 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar to simmer in a small sauce pan. To me, simmering is when the entire bottom of the pan is covered in little air bubbles and the water is steaming steadily; i.e.: almost boiling, but decidedly NOT boiling. Use the handle of a spoon to stir a whirlpool into the water and gently slide your egg into the vortex (side note: Slide Your Egg Into the Vortex would be an excellent R&B song title for baby making). Let the egg simmer for about 3-4 minutes and use a slotted spoon to gently remove it from the water. I like to lift my egg out of the water at the 3 minute mark, jiggle the spoon slightly and see what it looks like. If it’s uber jiggly: slide it back into the water for another minute, you want your whites gently cooked but the yolk nice and gooey.
Mound cooked farro or pasta into the bottom of a wide shallow bowl; spoon the finished vegetable broth over the top and gently nudge your poached egg into the middle of the bowl. Drizzle a few drops of bright green Parsley Scallion Oil on the top and enjoy immediately.
Say, check out all this green and orange. I must be channeling my Irish roots and prepping for St. Patrick's Day. Here's a classic recipe if you want to recreate some yummy pub-style fare at home from the PD archives.