|Carrots with Coconut|
I used to live in India, and I miss it every single day: the food, the people, the culture. I spent the greater part of four years living in Goa. I lived right on the beach, going days without ever leaving the sand. I never missed a sunset, and I slept and woke to the gentle sound of the waves. Well it was probably the roosters that actually woke me up, but it was lovely none the less.
I used to be a professional massage therapist, and I used to travel- a lot. I went to India on vacation, planning to stay for a month or two, and ended up setting up a massage business there in a local guesthouse. I worked through the eight month tourist season, and then travelled by train across that beautiful, vastly diverse country. It's crazy to think about it now, but that's how my life was back then. I travelled. I explored. I was free and open to life's opportunities.
Well now, where was I before I drifted away with my memories of India. Oh yes, food, Indian food, and recipes for things I love, but haven't tasted since I left India.
Now I have to admit here that I am not a very organized cook. I wish I were the type to have a meal plan for the week and all the necessary ingredients on hand, but I'm not. I almost never know what I will make for my next meal. I usually just throw some ingredients together and hope for the best. Even so, I eat well. But when I get my hands on a new cookbook, I get totally organized. I pull out my little colored sticky tabs to mark all the recipes that I like. I make a list of the ones I want to make in the week ahead, and then set out for the markets. Once I have rounded up all the ingredients that I need, I dive in. So, with my new cookbook in hand , I know what I will be eating this week-Indian!
I chose to start with this recipe for carrots because it was simple, and it reminded me of where I used to live. The use of coconut is most commonly used in southern India, where they grow. In Goa I actually lived surrounded by coconut palm trees, and when it came time to harvest, I would watch the men skillfully climb the tall slender trunks with their deft hands and feet. When they reached the top they would release the large nuts with a quick chop of their machete and let them fall to the ground. You could hear the rhythm- thwack, thud, thwack, thud, until they shimmied back down, and moved on to the next tree.You had to keep your head up at this time, because you didn't want to accidentally wander into the path of a falling coconut. They can do serious damage.
This is a simple light side dish. The flavor of the carrots dominates, while the coconut adds a rich, nutty sweetness. The ginger and dried chilies add warmth, and the cilantro brightens things up a bit. I like a bit more bright acidic flavor to balance the sweetness, so I give it a good squeeze of lime juice.
Yields 3-4 servings
Carrots with Coconut
5 medium carrots
1 T. olive oil or coconut oil
1/2 tsp. urud dal (white lentils)
You can find urud dal in Asian markets or online, but it won't change the dish too much if you leave it out.
1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
2 whole dried red chilies broken in half
1 tsp. grated ginger
1/4 tsp. salt or more to taste
3T. grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
2T. chopped cilantro (I used more)
lime wedge (optional)
Let me start by saying that I don't expect anyone to crack open and grate their own coconut. Extra points if you do, but I certainly am not willing to. I bought frozen. If you can't find frozen, I would go with dry unsweetened, and not worry about it.
Next, if you are a peeler, go ahead and peel the carrots. It does make for a prettier dish, but I wouldn't hesitate to skip this step. Just scrub them well, and slice them into thin rounds.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. I used olive oil as the original recipe suggested, but will probably use coconut oil next time. Throw in the urud dal, and when it starts to color throw in the mustard seeds and dried chilies. When the mustard seeds start to pop (after a few seconds) throw in the carrots, ginger and salt. Stir it around for a bit until well mixed.
Add 3-4 T. of water and cover the pan. Simmer until the carrots are tender. I like my carrots on the crunchy side, so I used only 3T. of water.
Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut and cilantro. Mix and serve with a wedge of lime.
You could try this recipe with other vegetables too. I remember eating something like this with pumpkin/squash, and I bet it would be a fantastic way to do green beans.