Tag Archives: Coconut

Pumpkin stuffed with coconut rice

Creativity in the kitchen is an oddly stodgy thing. There are twists and meanderings and the occasional hairpin turn, but for the most part, my creative process follows a predictable path.

Case in point: my dear friend Isabel hosted an Iron Chef party last weekend. The secret ingredient was pumpkin pie spice–cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and/or cloves. I was told to bring a vegetarian entree. Something in a pumpkin. Maybe with rice.

When a challenge like this comes along, I attack it in stages. They are, approximately:

  1. Panic. I don’t know what to do. I have no ideas. Anything can be stuffed in a pumpkin. Mushrooms. Nuts. Bread. Pasta. Quinoa. Soup. Potatoes. Tofu. No, not tofu. TOO MANY OPTIONS.
  2. Fixation. Wait, she said ginger. What if it was candied ginger? CANDIED GINGER. I love candied ginger. Candied ginger is sweet. Candied ginger is spicy. Nobody expects candied ginger in an entree. People will think I am a great kitchen god if I use candied ginger. This is brilliant. Candied ginger will be my ticket to Iron Chef glory. I can think of nothing but candied ginger for two days.
  3. Free Association. Hmm. Candied ginger. Ginger fried rice. Rice. Coconut rice. Coconut. Coconut and cardamom. Cardamom. Cardamom pistachio cake. Pistachio. I bet pistachios would be good in coconut rice. What if I stuffed the pumpkin with coconut rice? I’m going to stuff the pumpkin with coconut rice.
  4. Research. Google “coconut rice.” Google “coconut milk.” Google “white rice.” Google “brown rice.” Google “stuffed pumpkin.” Google “stuffed pumpkin recipe.” Google “toasting nuts.” Google “toasting spices.” Google “is candied ginger vegan.”
  5. Testing. Write out a recipe, in excruciating detail. Test the recipe. Be mildly disappointed that the real thing doesn’t measure up to the orgy of flavor perfection I’d concocted in my head (see steps 1-5).

I will say, though, this time I came awfully close to my perfectionist vision. The rice turned out fragrant and light, with bursts of toasty crunch from the nuts and pockets of sweetness from the ginger. The pumpkin slumped and browned obligingly in the oven, creating a gorgeous caramel-edged spectacle when it came out. The filling held together in pert wedges when the pumpkin was sliced, and then collapsed into a pile of fluffy grains at the touch of a fork.

It’s the kind of thing I just might make again–and that’s high praise.

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Blackberry-coconut sorbet

I had a cooking disaster the other night.

I was trying to make white gazpacho with crab salad for a dinner party. I never got to the crab salad portion, because the gazpacho failed spectacularly. I wanted cool, creamy, refreshing; I got watery, grainy, bland. It was inedible, even after several rounds of straining and pureeing, and eventually I had to throw the whole thing out.

I sulked. I brooded. I whined to my boyfriend. After a while, I decided I wanted something sweet as a comfort. So I opened the freezer and pulled out a container of homemade blackberry-coconut sorbet. I’d found the idea for it in a Jezebel open comment thread, of all places. There wasn’t much to go on–just a few ballpark quantities and a note that it was transcendently delicious. I couldn’t resist trying it out, and whipped up a batch of deep purple sorbet, enriched with coconut milk. The texture turned out thick, creamy, luscious–more like ice cream than sorbet.

I stuck a spoon into the container and took a taste. Instantly I was reminded of childhood summers, when we went hunting for wild blackberries in the creeks near my parents’ house. I remembered straining to reach the ripest, plushest berries at the very top of the brambles. I remembered my first big blackberry scratch, all the way up the back of my leg, and taking a swim in the local pool to dislodge the thorns. I savored that scoop of sorbet–sweet-tart blackberry, rich coconut, whispers of honey and vanilla and rum–and slowly I sank into a summery calm.

And just like that, I was kitchen-powerful again.

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