This weekend, I used two of my favorite food items on the planet–coconut and avocado. My love for coconut goes way back into the memory banks. As a kid, it certainly wasn’t something we would have on a regular basis. My grandfather, Pa Bill, LOOOVED my Momma’s Fresh Coconut Cake. (That’s probably where my love affair started…if Pa Bill loved it, I did too!) I vaguely remember my dad putting a coconut on the table and using a screwdriver to poke out the “eyes” to get the water out. Then he’d use a hammer to work all the way around the shell until it broke into two pieces. That beautiful white meat smelled amazing. Then Daddy would break it into smaller chunks so my Momma could get the meat out of the shell and grate it for that cake.
For years, basically all I knew to do with an Avocado was make Guacamole–or eat it fresh out of the shell with a little salt. I have used it in a few ways, like a cold soup, but usually it was relegated to guac, or cut into chunks to put on top of a salad…very basic stuff like that. My transition into eating nearly 100 percent Paleo has had me searching for ways to use both coconut and avocado in more and different ways.
I found a recipe for Paleo pancakes, but I never could get the batter right. It was always too gummy and wouldn’t spread like a regular batter does. The flavor was good, but the texture was wrong. I finally figured out what I was doing wrong…I was using coconut flour, and it was soaking up so much liquid, it was more spreadable than pourable. So, this time I used Arrowroot Flour, a Paleo Blend, and Almond Flour. Voila!! The right texture. I was glad it worked, but I was a little bummed it wouldn’t have the coconut flavor I love. But, it was a good swap, and I did use an organic Coconut Oil to oil the pan with. I got my coconut flavor!! The flavor was right, the texture was right…I was a happy camper.
One of my favorite coconut memories comes from the time I spent in Guatemala. We were working on revitalizing a playground for an orphanage, making it safer for the kids to play without cutting their feet on the sharp rocks that were everywhere. I took a break in the afternoon and as I usually did, took a walk around the neighborhood. A group of young boys were playing in the street and I went and talked to them. They asked if I was thirsty, which I was, so one of them climed a tree and brought down some coconuts. They asked if I wanted one and I said, “sure!” They cut the top off, stuck in a straw and handed it to me…it was amazing. The next day a little old man came rolling up to our house on a bicycle that had no tires…only the rims…and he was carrying an entire stalk of coconuts. A few days later, I surprised him when I went back with two new tires for his bike…
Now for the Avocado. I stumbled across a Paleo magazine and although it was a little pricey for a magazine ($10), I got one. Inside was a recipe for an Avocado-Lime (not quite) Cheesecake. Since going Paleo, my sweet tooth is usually held at bay by eating fruit, etc. Occasionally, though, it won’t be denied. I am a Pastry Chef, so I usually have no problems in coming up with outrageous dessert recipes, but I’m really trying to stay away from processed sugar, flour, dairy, etc. So I gave the recipe a try. All I can say is Wow!!
In India, Avocados are called Butterfruit. Makes sense to me. The flavor is neutral enough you wouldn’t have to “cover” it up, and Lime and Avocado are a natural combination. It is sweetened with raw honey. I found a local source for raw, unfiltered honey, and my, my, my, I’ll never go back to any other kind.
The crust for the (not) cheesecake is made from cashews and pecans soaked in coconut milk. Dates are used for sweetness and as “glue” I drained the coconut milk and saved it for smoothies because now it has a great coconut AND cashew flavor. Pulse it in the food processor, press it in the pan, refrigerate it and there you are…a perfect crust.
The filling was avocado (you can use frozen,) lime zest, lime juice, honey and a little vanilla. Blend it til smooth and fill up the pan. I was anxious to try it so I let it stay in the fridge for 2 or 3 hours and I thought it was incredibly sweet–too much so. I thought, “it’s good…I certainly wouldn’t want to eat the whole thing, but it works…” Let it sit overnight so the flavors can meld and it’s an entirely different taste–much more balanced. I did add a couple of teaspoons of unflavored gelatin because the filling looked a little soft, and I wanted it to be able to slice cleanly. Oh yeah…it worked!!
In Paleo, coconut and avocado are used extensively. I hardly ever cook with anything other than coconut oil…well, that and good old bacon grease…I was raised in the South after all!! All in all, this was a good and productive weekend–I finally nailed a recipe I’ve worked on several times, and found a new way to calm my sweet tooth without breaking the Paleo mantra. My love affair with coconut and avocado just keeps getting deeper and deeper….namaste