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Archive for August 13, 2013

PRODUCT: Coconut Grater From Microplane

Your coconut cake deserves fresh-grated
coconut. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.
Here’s the recipe.

 

Recently, the folks at Microplane wrote to tell us that their Microplane Elite Extra Coarse Grater was terrific for grating coconut. The grater has large grating holes that give fresh coconut a texture similar to commercial shredded coconut—but if you’re a coconut lover, you’ll really prefer the superior taste and natural crunch of freshly-grated coconut.

We love moist, grated coconut in and on ambrosia salad, cakes, cupcakes, lemon-coconut bars, macaroons and ice cream. On the savory side, there’s coconut batter shrimp, coconut rice, Thai chicken and soups, numerous Indian dishes and other Pacific Rim cuisine.

The grater also works on cheeses and root vegetables. The suggested retail is $16.95, and you can buy it online. If you have a friend who makes a great coconut dish, you can make a gift of the grater and a fresh coconut.

 

A COCONUT IS A FRUIT, NOT A NUT

Actually, it’s a drupe—a category of fruits that includes the coffee cherry (bean), mango, olive, most palms (date and coconut palms, e.g.), strawberry and all members of the genus Prunus, including the almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum.

Here’s what we dug up at the Library of Congress:

Is a coconut a fruit, nut or seed? Botanically speaking, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, a classification of fruit.

A drupe is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed (like a peach or olive) and comes from the word drupa meaning overripe olive. A coconut, and all drupes, have three layers: the exocarp (outer layer), the mesocarp (fleshy middle layer), and the endocarp (hard, woody layer that surrounds the seed). When you buy a coconut at the supermarket the exocarp and the mesocarp have been removed and what you see is the endocarp.

 

So why is it called a nut?

Food names were bestowed long ago, often by explorers and others who had no botanical training.

Eggplants have nothing to do with eggs, but the early small, white oval varieties looked like eggs to the folks who named them. Grapefruit growing on trees looked like jumbo clusters of grapes. To Columbus’s crew, the heat in chiles reminded them of the black peppercorns back home, so they called chiles “peppers.” They were ignorant of the fact that there is no relation between chiles and peppers.

The oldest reference to the coconut comes from a 5th century Egyptian traveler, Cosmas, who wrote about the “Indian nut” or “nut of India” (the coconut more than likely originated in the Indian Archipelago or Polynesia). “Coconut” was derived from old Portuguese and Spanish, where coco meant head or skull.

Why skull?

 

It’s not a nut, but a fruit. Photo courtesy Microplane.

 
The three small holes on the coconut shell resembled human facial features. According to one source, the sailors of Vasco da Gama, who came across the fruit in India and first brought it to Europe, were reminded of a ghost or witch in Portuguese folklore called coco. The first known recorded usage of the term is 1555.

FOOD TRIVIA: THE PALM TREE IS NOT A TREE

Botanically, the coconut palm is not a tree since there is no bark, no branches, no secondary growth. The coconut palm is a woody perennial (flowering plant) called a monocotyledon; what we see as the trunk is a very thick, woody stem.

Other monocotyledons include the true grains (maize, rice, wheat, etc.), the pasture grasses, sugar cane, bamboo, banana, ginger and the amaryllis family—which includes onions and garlic plus flowering plants such as the amaryllis, daffodil, lily, iris, orchids, and tulip.

Isn’t botany enlightening?

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetable Bouquet

Irresistible crudités for kids. Photo courtesy
Living Locurto.

 

Hey there, Edible Arrangements: You’re missing out on dazzling vegetable bouquets like these.

The vegetable arrangements were created by blogger Amy Locurto of LivingLocurto.com, who developed the veggie bouquet concept to entice her children to eat more vegetables.

Serve them at home, or bring them to parties and barbecues as your contribution. You can make a large basket or bowl centerpiece, or make individual servings in juice glasses.

VEGETABLE BOUQUET RECIPE

Ingredients

  • Vegetables: baby carrots, grape or cherry tomatoes in red and orange/yellow, cucumbers, radishes, yellow squash, zucchini and anything else your friends and family like
  • Celery for the stems
  • Fennel, bok choy or other stalk vegetables with leaves at the top
  • Cream cheese, an optional “glue”
  • Flower shaped cookie cutter
  • Long toothpicks/wood skewers
  • Small vases, cups, jars or orange juice glasses to
    hold individual bouquets
  • Water to fill the jars
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUCUMBER & ZUCCHINI FLOWERS: Cut cucumbers/zucchini into flower shapes and cut small circles for the flower centers. Affix centers with cream cheese.

    2. CARROT, TOMATO & RADISH BLOSSOMS: Affix individual vegetables to the top of long toothpicks.

    3. CELERY LEAVES: Cut the leafy upper stems of celery to fill out the bouquet. If you don’t have enough leafy stalks, use regular celery sticks. Make cuts in the top about 1/2 inch deep as a design element. If you place the tops in water with ice cubes, the “fringe” should open a bit.
     
    You can wash and recycle the skewers.

    Check Out These Nifty Vegetable Cutters

  • Floral cutters set
  • Animal cutters set
  •   

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