Apr 27, 2009

Adventures in Coconut Milk

After my noodle bowl prescription last week I had sweet potatoes and coconut milk on the brain...

I started with the biggest sweet potato I’ve ever seen – it was easily twice the size of an average potato. So if your market isn’t selling overgrown produce you should go ahead & grab two regular sweet potatoes.

I cubed my mutant sweet potato into ¾” pieces, tossed them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garam masala and popped them into a 400 degree oven. Garam Masala is an Indian spice mix that I use a lot – it’s savory and a little sweet and delicious with everything. We had roasted carrots with garam masala for our Passover Seder a few weeks ago and everyone went crazy for them – they were phenomenal.

Anyhoo… I roasted the sweet potato chunks for about 45 minutes until they were soft and starting to caramelize around the edges. While the potatoes were in the oven I chopped a big handful of cilantro. When the potatoes were done I put them in a bowl, poured about 3.5 ounces of light coconut milk over them (about a quarter of a 14oz. can) and mashed them. It only took a few swipes with a potato masher, then I added the cilantro, stirred everything together to combine & voila – the most incredible sweet potato dish EVER. Tooting my own horn? A little bit. But it really is delicious, not cloyingly sweet like most sweet potato recipes, and if you use light coconut milk the fat & calorie count doesn’t get out of control. It would be great for an Island-themed menu, maybe with Jerk Chicken…

In the midst of my sweet potato bliss I decided to try a variation on the coconut cauliflower flat bread recipe from Mark Bittman. I chopped half a head of cauliflower, tossed it with some olive oil, salt & pepper & added it to the oven to roast with the sweet potato. While it was roasting I mixed the flat bread batter. The recipe calls for regular bread flour or whole wheat flour but I have a bag of chickpea flour I’ve been dying to find the right use for so I used that. It may have been a mistake. I mixed a cup of chickpea flour with the remaining coconut milk and a few ounces of water (to replace the coconut milk I had used for the sweet potatoes), salt, pepper and a palmful of curry powder. 

When the cauliflower was ready (about 20 mins) I dumped it into the batter and gave it all a good stir. That’s when I ran into problem #2. On the recipe video, Mr. Bittman suggests cooking the flat bread on the stove and finishing it in the oven. The only oven-safe pan I have that could do both is a cast iron skillet so I took it out, heated some olive oil over a medium flame and added the batter to the hot oil in the skillet. After a minute I slipped it into the oven and left it to cook for the prescribed 45 minutes.

Here it is when I took it out of the oven – doesn’t look too bad, huh? Well, right after I took this picture I tried to flip it out onto a cutting board. No luck. I cut around the edges, tapped the bottom, tried to slip a spatula underneath….no dice. It was stuck. So I tried to cut a wedge out in the pan. I couldn’t even get that out! In the end I had to scoop out the whole mess and ended up with something that resembled cauliflower stuffing. It was delicious cauliflower stuffing, but not really what I had intended to make. And not the kind of thing you could serve your friends…it really looked like I had dropped it on the floor before throwing it on the plate. Pretty much a complete disaster. I’m betting that a nonstick pan would have been the way to go here. But sticking to the bottom notwithstanding, the chickpea flour didn’t really cook into a bread consistency…it was more like a mushy undercooked pancake. I even put it back in the oven for 15 minutes but it didn’t help – it was fully cooked, just not the way I wanted it to be.

So, the moral of the story? Stick to the sweet potatoes.

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