The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

April 24, 2013

Amanda Stone: Coconut gets new respect

JOPLIN, Mo. — Coconut isn't just for amazing, high-calorie desserts anymore. After years of being shunned as one of those infuriatingly fatty pieces of produce, coconut is finally getting some respect. It's about time. We just have to open our minds to the idea of what the almighty coconut can do for us.

Coconut oil has started showing up in lots of healthy recipes. When compared with olive oil, coconut oil has more saturated fat, but plenty of people no longer think that's a terrible thing. Be mindful that the hype surrounding coconut oil may be fueled by folks who don't consume many other sources of saturated fat, namely animal products.

One of coconut oil's big selling points is that it is solid at room temperature, so it can be used in place of shortening or butter. Or it can be melted and used like oil. It has a high smoke point, making it great for stir-fry or popcorn.

Besides cooking, coconut oil has lots of surprising uses. It's great for dry skin, diaper rash, and eye-makeup removal. It's supposed to be good for the scalp and aids in stimulating hair growth. You can season your cast-iron skillet, de-frizz your split ends, soothe poison ivy and shave your legs all with a tub of coconut oil. I wonder if it comes in a 5-gallon bucket?

My first memory of a real, whole coconut, hair and all, is my brother choosing one as a treat at the grocery store. After lots of effort, he poked a hole in it and drained the coconut water. What a letdown. I was expecting something sweet and creamy, like a fancy tropical drink from the movies. No, it's just water with a hint of nuttiness. Coconut milk and coconut cream come from the expressed juice of the actual coconut meat. They're not very sweet at all, but they're so good at adding creaminess to savory dishes. You can find them in a can in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

I've always known coconut to be sweetened, shredded and sold in a plastic bag. We all know how amazing it is in desserts. If you're a coconut fan, you'll also love the unsweetened variety served in your dinner. It's harder to find, but health food stores usually carry it. Track some down and try it in a curry sauce or throw some in your next wok of stir-fry. Try the following recipes for a different twist on how to use coconut.


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