Posts Tagged ‘coconut milk’

I have a confession to make, I’ve never really been interested in Asian food. I’m not sure if it’s because grew up on an, albeit, weird amalgam of it. If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know exactly what I mean. Teriyaki chicken with macaroni salad and a ball of white rice with, let’s not forget, a blob of mayonnaise on top (although, I admit, mayonnaise and rice was a staple of mine through my early 20’s). Somehow, and sadly, Hawaii has managed to strangle the life out of food. Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese and Portuguese. Cultures that offer amazing foods, smooshed down to a sodium-laden box lunch.

Or if it’s because Chinese food, at least the Chinese food we get here in the States, is sticky, salty, MSG laden and, well, not very interesting. Not to mention, from what I understand, it’s nothing like real Chinese food.

Or maybe it’s because I don’t like bok choy.

Whatever the reason, Asian cooking has never been a part of my repertoire. But lately, there’s been a shift. I usually skim articles in food magazines that take you to Asia. When Bourdain travels to Indonesia or China, I watch with only half interest. If at all. I’ve never really understood the intense obsession chefs have with the foods of South East Asia and China. Frankly, I always thought they went there for the woman. Who would say no to a gorgeous Thai girl offering you a massage?

But that shift I mentioned? I think I’m beginning to understand why chefs are drawn to the Far East. It’s the challenge. Mediterranean foods, in a way, are easy. Vegetables of the Mediterranean grow fairly successfully in the States. There is no lack of cookbooks on the subject. Cookbooks that take you to a country, to a region, to a village, even to a family in a specific neighborhood in Italy, France or Spain. For many of us, it’s in our blood. We’re drawn to cooking with olive oil and roasted garlic. It’s innate. We’re born craving bruschetta. But mung beans? Water chestnuts? Well, not so much.

Cooking Asian food requires the hunt. Especially if you don’t have a functioning Chinatown nearby. Not even Whole Food’s has more than half an aisle devoted to Asian foods. Even then, it’s generally the stuff we’re all familiar with. Then, of course, there are the tools. And us cooks love any excuse to shop for new kitchen tools. Well if I’m going to cook Chinese food than I need a wok!

But the biggest challenge is the flavors. Bringing together and balancing lemongrass, black sesame seeds, bamboo shoots, chilies that will damn near burn your tongue off, in a way that sings on your palate? Instead of choking you? Now those, my friends, are fighting words.

So, I’m intrigued. Just like that. Maybe it’s because spring is right around the corner and I’m craving lighter foods. Maybe it’s because I’m ready for a challenge. I don’t know, but I sure am excited about it. The other day at Powell’s I bought a Japanese noodle book. Homemade udon noodles from scratch are so on the list.


This recipe was inspired by the lovely Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. I can always count on Heidi to inspire me with a gloriously healthy and delicious dish.

Turkey Curry Udon

Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

What you’ll need~

1-package Udon noodles

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 leek, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons green curry paste (more or less depending on how spicy you’d like it)

About a pound of a protein of your choice, cut into chunks. I used turkey, Heidi used tofu.

1 can of coconut milk

2 or more cups of chicken or vegetable stock

2 teaspoons ground curry or turmeric

1 handful torn dulse (Heidi used shoyu which I didn’t have on hand)

1-2 stalks of lemongrass, bulb cut off and dry leaves peeled off.

Splash of rice vinegar

1 scant tablespoon natural cane sugar

Juice of 1-2 limes

Handful of sliced almonds

1 shallot, thinly sliced and gently and briefly caramelized

Handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Cook your noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Warm your coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in garlic, leeks, and turkey. Stir in curry paste. Cook until turkey is no longer pink in the middle.

Pound peeled lemongrass with the back of your knife to release the lemongrass essence (do take a deep breath at this point), then finely slice it. Stir in coconut milk, stock, curry powder or turmeric, dulse, lemongrass, rice vinegar and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove pot from the heat and stir in lime juice and noodles. Noodles might stick together, just use your spoon to gently separate them.

Serve noodles in bowls sprinkled with sliced almonds, shallots and cilantro.


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Next week Adam and I go on our annual pilgrimage to the sleepy coastal town of Oceanside, Oregon. This will be our third year celebrating his birthday there and I cannot wait. When winter falls, Oceanside is virtually abandoned. Summer homes lay empty and locked against the sharp ocean winds. The tiny café closes at 3. The few folks you do see are the light sprinkling of year-round residents, or people who come to Oceanside longing to walk their dogs on a quiet beach.

Adam and I are an off-season kind of a couple. We tend to go out in the middle of the week, and rarely gravitate towards large people attracting events. We like quiet and subtly. Oceanside in January is just that.

The meticulously clean cabins we like to stay in are practically right on the beach. In the evenings we sip wine and watch the sun slowly make its decent into the horizon, play a game of chess or cards, then fall asleep each night to the sound of crashing waves.

There is only one restaurant in Oceanside and they make the best salmon cakes (more salmon than cake) I’ve ever had. Wanting more restaurant options means driving for at least 45 minutes, so last year we decided to rent a cabin with a kitchen and bring food to cook for our meals. This year we’ll do the same. We haven’t decided on a menu yet, but this soup would be perfect to warm us against the cold grey ocean winds. There is just a hair of spice from the red pepper flakes I tossed in, and the bright butternut squash orange is like a bowl of sunshine right when you need it.


Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is adapted from two recipes in Amanda Hesser’s Essential NY Times Cookbook: Roasted Squash Soup with Cumin and Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter. I used one as a guide, and pulled an idea or two from the other. One of the recipes called for half a cup of cream. For some reason, my stomach is very opposed to warmed or cooked milk, so I substituted coconut milk for cream. The coconut milk transformed this soup into a wonderfully Indian style bisque. I wish I had made naan bread to go with it!

What you’ll  need~

1 large butternut squash

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or other herb

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 1/2 cups chicken broth

2-3 cloves roasted garlic

1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

1-2 pinches red pepper flakes

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Using a sharp knife, cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise. I stabbed the squash in the middle and cut down like I was cutting open a lobster. Turn the squash around do and the same thing in the other direction.

Scoop out seeds and place in a bowl. Brush olive oil onto each squash half and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck fresh herbs into squash cavities and place squash cut side down onto the foil.

Roast until soft and tender, about 45 minutes.

Rinse squash seeds under cold water and discard all the leftover goop. Place seeds on a paper towel and pat down to dry.

Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Toss seeds in skillet with 1/2 teaspoon cumin and some salt until nicely browned and crisp.

Scoop squash flesh from shells and place in a pot. Add chicken broth, roasted garlic, champagne vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender then use it to blend the soup into a purée. Otherwise, blend soup in batches in your blender, then return soup to the pot.

I find that coconut milk tends to separate and get clumpy in the can, so I like to gently warm it up in saucepan before using.

Stir in coconut milk or cream and bring to a gentle simmer.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm and garnished with squash seeds.

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What better way to start, or end, the Christmas holiday than with a little boozy hot chocolate? It’ll warm your soul and open you heart. And, let’s be frank here, make Christmas a more relaxing event.

Admittedly, Christmas with Adam’s folks (my folks live in Hawaii) is always a relaxed event. No stress, fantastic food, and even better company.  If I could take you with me, I would.

Here’s to a wonderfully cozy and peaceful Christmas!


Boozy Hot Chocolate

I decided to use coconut milk instead of regular milk for my hot chocolate for two reasons. The first reason is that I’m not much of a milk person. The second is due to some amazing vegan truffles made by Missionary Chocolates here in Portland. As we know, I’m no vegan, and truth be told, I usually avoid anything labeled as vegan. But after one bite of these truffles, I knew these weren’t your usual soy and sugar laden vegan fare. Their (not so) secret ingredient is coconut milk. Making their truffles unbelievably rich and buttery.  Naturally, when I thought about making hot chocolate, coconut milk was the first ingredient to pop into my head.

What you’ll need~

One can whole fat coconut milk

1/2 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/4-teaspoon vanilla extract

Half of one vanilla bean, split and insides scraped out and reserved

1/2 teaspoon Chile powder, add more or less to taste

1/4-teaspoon cinnamon


Whole cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans, optional

Warm coconut milk on stove at medium heat and bring to a very slow and gentle simmer. When your milk starts to barely bubble, turn heat down to low and add chopped chocolate. Let sit and melt.

Whisk in the remaining ingredients.

Warm mugs and add 1-2 tablespoon Cognac, depending on the size of your mug and/or desired booziness. Pour hot chocolate over Cognac, add cinnamon sticks and/or vanilla beans and serve warm.

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Last night we closed all of the windows and this morning we’re padding around the apartment in thick socks. Fall is shouldering her way into Portland and summer is gently following the geese south. I’ve been talking about fall a lot lately. I think we all have. She appeared quickly this year, as summer was a small town. Blink, and you missed it.

Fall is also my favorite season. If you’re lucky to live in a region that has seasons, the vibrancy of summer changing into fall is awe-inspiring in the northern states.

The changing leaves always entice me and my camera and soon I’ll be sharing some pictures of autumnal Portland. For now, I’ll share a recipe.

I found inspiration in Kim Boyce’s recent cookbook Good to the Grain. Even if you don’t like to bake, I encourage you to pick up this book. Or at least spend some time with it in the bookstore. It is visually gorgeous. Cozy and comforting like fall, Quentin Bacon’s photography truly captured the essence of Boyce’s recipes.

My carrot muffins are a little different that Kim’s. I prefer my muffins to be more savory than sweet so I chose to forgo the streusel topping. I also replaced the brown sugar with maple syrup and I tossed in a few teaspoons of poppy seeds because, well, it sounded nice. I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand so I used coconut milk with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Replacing powders with liquids is a little tricky, so instead of using a full cup of coconut milk, I reduced the amount of coconut milk by four tablespoons.

These are the sort of muffins that will make your apartment smell wonderfully homey. I wanted to share them with some friends, but Adam said I wasn’t allowed to share. He wanted them all to himself :)


Carrot Poppy Seed Muffins

What you’ll need:

Dry mix

1 cup spelt flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup oat bran

1/4 cup sugar (I used a bit less than that)

1/4 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg (or use 1 tsp allspice)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 teaspoons poppy seeds

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup grated carrots (my carrots were small so I used 3-4)

Wet mix

1/2 stick butter melt and slightly cooled (Kim prefers unsalted, but all I had on hand was salted)

1 cup minus 4 tablespoons coconut milk or buttermilk

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar if using coconut milk

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Generously rub muffin tins with butter.

Sift all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Stir carrots into dry mix.

Using a small bowl, whisk butter, egg, coconut milk and apple cider vinegar together. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and give it a good stir.

Spoon (I used an ice cream scoop) batter in to muffin tins so the batter is just mounded above the edge of the tin.

Place in oven and bake for 30–35 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through.

The muffins will be a beautiful dark golden brown when they are ready. Remove the muffins from the oven, and twist the muffins out of the tin placing them on their side. This is the coolest trick out of Kim’s book. Placing them on their side to cool helps them to stay crusty. Neat, huh?

Serve with some hot tea and a slab of butter on the muffin.

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