coconut

Macadamia-Crusted Mahi-Mahi

The wind is howling. Like, shaking my blinds, waking up Gatsby, and making me think I’m back in Nebraska in a winter blizzard howling. This is a cruel joke after a really rough winter, and then two days of 60+ degrees and sunshine. But, it’s also the incentive I need to get this delicious recipe up on my blog.

You see, I’ve been in Hawaii. Or rather, I was in Hawaii about three weeks ago.

Time out. Can we talk about Hawaii for a moment? Beautiful place. Definitely on the to-do list for pretty much anyone. In honor of my dad’s birthday, we took a cruise that stopped at all four main islands. My favorite island was Maui, I would have loved more time in Kona, and the Na Pali Coast is even more beautiful in person than in pictures. I could have spent two more weeks there (at least), but I’m so glad I went.

Anyway, I am just now getting back into my routine, and feeling the desire to cook creatively. Whenever I travel, I love to experience the local culture and food — and then recreate in my kitchen. I definitely have a few ideas from Hawaii.

But I was on the road for almost two weeks (some business, then vacation), and when I came home all I wanted was very simple, very green foods. I wasn’t ready to experiment with new ingredients or really spend much time in the kitchen. I’m just getting back into the swing of kitchen playtime.

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But, this is actually not a new recipe for me, although I had admittedly forgotten about it until having a similar dish in Hawaii. I first developed it about 6 years ago to copycat a dish I had at a now-defunct Asian fusion recipe. At the time, coconut-based ingredients weren’t mainstream back then, and I knew nothing about Asian cooking (umm, today I know twice as much… which is to say, still nothing), so I used dairy milk and olive oil.

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If you’re strict Paleo or gluten-free, panko is a no-go. The problem is, without some kind of binding you’ll end up with macadamia nut butter if you aren’t careful, and it’s hard for the coating to stick. Some people like to use nut flour or nut meal in a recipe like this, and I’m sure they are delicious. But, nuts are heavy and rich. I specifically wanted the lightness and crispiness that panko adds to the dish.

It’s great with rice, or try plantains if you can get some (presuming you like them… they aren’t really my thing). I also like it with a pineapple-based salsa, and I imagine other tropical fruits would also be good. I served this with leftover broccoli, but it tasted too bitter to me. Maybe a first-course salad would have been better? Let me know what you think.

Hope you enjoy! Aloha, and I’ll see you soon.

Macadamia-Crusted Mahi-Mahi

Serves 4

1 1/4 cups macadamia nuts
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 can light coconut milk, shaken (or 1 1/2 cups dairy milk)
Kosher salt
Ground pepper
4 6-oz. boneless, skinless mahi mahi fillets, or other firm white fish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray or brush with melted coconut oil. Combine nuts and bread crumbs in a food processor. Add a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Pulse until the nuts are finely crushed (it will resemble couscous). Pour into a shallow bowl.

Pour the milk into a separate shallow bowl. Pat fish fillets dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dip each fillet first into the milk and then into the nut mixture. Place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle any excess nut mixture onto the fillets.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until a light golden brown and the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Coconut-Pistachio Chocolate Bark

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I love chocolate. Love. Dark chocolate is a more recent development, relatively speaking. I probably didn’t really join the dark chocolate camp until after college.

Pistachios are also more of a grown-up treat, don’t you think? I don’t remember liking them as a kid. Or having them around at all, now that I think about it (boxes of pistachio-flavored Jell-O instant pudding don’t count). Older and wiser me is all about the curious little green nut.

I work in market research. One of my favorite research partners, Davis Research, sends a canister of pistachios every December. Laugh, but we look forward to it all year (or at least, from the time the previous year’s batch runs out!). While I love snacking on them, I like mixing it up a bit and finding new ways to use them.

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This coconut-pistachio chocolate bark is adapted slightly from Bon Appetit’s annual Food Lover’s Cleanse, a two-week program designed for foodies to get on the resolutions bandwagon with a food palate reset. A friend and I each made several recipes from this year’s Cleanse, with varying reactions, but this recipe was definitely a keeper.

A few tips:

Buy the good stuff. The first ingredient should be cacao.

If you’re new to bittersweet chocolate, go a little further than you’re accustomed to, but not so far that you won’t eat it. The point is to still have a treat while cutting back on sugar. The recipe calls for a chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao, but if you don’t normally go any darker than semisweet chocolate, start with 60%.

Melt the chocolate slowly. A double boiler is best, but the microwave works. When chocolate melts properly, it should be shiny and smooth.

Unsweetened coconut. Repeat: unsweetened coconut. “Regular” flaked and shredded coconut is, like, 99% sugar (okay, maybe not 99%, but it is a lot). If your regular grocery store doesn’t carry it, try a natural or specialty food store.

Don’t skip the salt… unless your pistachios were already salted. It really brings out the flavor.

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Coconut-Pistachio Chocolate Bark

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about eight 1-oz. servings

1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% or more cacao)
3 tablespoons chopped roasted pistachios
Flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until most flakes are straw-colored, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 30-second intervals in a microwave, stirring between each interval. Spread melted chocolate on baking mat in an even layer about 1/8″ thick. Scatter toasted coconut and pistachios evenly over chocolate. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Let chocolate cool completely, then break into pieces. Bark will keep for about a week stored in a cool place in an airtight container.

Dairy-Free Coconut Raspberry Ice Cream

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One of my dear friends drives a yellow Mini Cooper. It is a perfect metaphor for her disposition. We first met as coworkers, when her laughter would echo through the building. We both moved on from that company years ago but have remained friends, and she’s someone I count on for advice, support and a good gab session.

She has pretty significant food restrictions, almost none by choice. If you didn’t know her well, you might not even know, but I always worry about excluding her from the ritual that is shared food experience.

I happened across this recipe for dairy-free ice cream a few weeks ago, and we agreed it would be a great treat to try when she came over to catch up on episodes of Scandal.

I was out of rum (what??), which will definitely play up the coconut flavor. Use at least one can of full-fat coconut milk and let the ice cream soften a bit before serving to avoid an icy texture.

Coconut Raspberry Ice Cream
Adapted from Kiran Turan

2 13.5-oz. cans of coconut milk (full-fat or one can each full-fat and light)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided
2 tabelspoons coconut rum (optional) 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (if not using rum, increase to 2 teaspoons)
9 oz fresh raspberries, divided (1 1/2 containers)

Freeze ice cream bowl and chill coconut milk im the refrigerator overnight.

In a blender, combine coconut milk, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and rum. Blend until smooth.Pour this mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Rinse the blender.

While the ice cream churns, make raspberry puree. Add 6 ounces raspberries and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar into blender (or use a handheld blender). Blend away until smooth.Strain raspberry puree to remove seeds.

While ice cream continues to churn, slowly drizzle in raspberry puree. With remaining raspberries, smoosh between your thumb and forefinger and drop into the ice cream bowl.

Transfer ice cream into a freezer-safe container and freeze for a few hours (until solid) or overnight.

Allow ice cream to soften for a bit before serving. Serve ice cream topped with toasted coconut flakes and fresh raspberries, if desired.