Coconut Orange Chicken

coconut orange chicken

My delightful creation boasts of the meat and cream of coconut, contrasted with fresh orange, and melded with the juices of sautéed chicken and onions-flavors which accent each other, as Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page suggest in Culinary Artistry.  1

Much can be said about the benefits of coconut, with its current widespread demand.  Coconut sugar-with its low glycemic index-is the best choice for baking (see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24), while coconut oil is ideal for health-learn more about this highly beneficial saturated fat in my entry Nutty Coconut Pie, 2017/11/13.  Here, however, we will explore the advantages of its milk, cream, and water.

Coconut is the largest and most important of all nuts, which is the stone of a drupe, the fruit of Coco nucifera, large tree-like palms, which are more closely related to grasses than other nut-trees.

These hardy fruits are borne and mature year-round; it takes eleven to twelve months for them to fully develop.  Around five to seven months, they develop coconut water (about 2% sugars) and a moist, delicate, gelatinous meat.  The mature coconut, however, has a less abundant, less sweet liquid, and meat that has become firm, fatty, and white.  2

Coconut milk-as opposed to coconut water-is made by pulverizing good, fresh coconut meat to form a thick paste, which consists of microscopic oil droplets and cell debris suspended in water; this water makes up about half of the paste’s volume.  Then more water is added, and it is strained to remove the solid particles.  Left to stand for an hour, a fat-rich cream layer separates from a thin-skim layer in the milk.  3

For a while, only the canned, skim coconut milk was available at Trader Joe’s.  When I inquired about their coconut cream, which I prefer for cooking, I was told the market was presently so glutted by the popularity of coconut products that the cream wasn’t being produced.  Lately, once again, cans of coconut cream are available there, much to my joy.

Recently friends came for dinner.  Cody was sharing his expertise with my computer, while I in turn was blessing with food; thus, the inspiration for this dish.  It was a win-win situation, for both of us were incapable of doing what the other was providing.

We are all critical members of the body.  With God’s help, we play out our individual parts, as we contribute to the whole.  Each of us is uniquely equipped; thus, the manifold splendor of the perfected body.  Likewise, this same divine genius can be seen in what mother-nature did, bestowing on us these many essential products from the coconut fruit.

References:

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 199.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 508.
  3. Ibid., p. 509.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_milk

finished product

Coconut Orange Chicken  Yields: 3-5 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/4 hr.

12 oz frozen broccoli  (Organic is best, available at Trader Joe’s; our local Grocery Outlet sometimes has it at a better price.)

1 lb chicken tenderloins, 8 lg pieces

6 1/2 tsp oil   (Coconut oil offers ideal flavor and quality.)

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8” slices

Small head of cauliflower  (Organic, orange cauliflower is often available at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores; color is beneficial to health.)

Red or orange bell pepper  (Organic is so important with bell peppers, as they readily absorb pesticides.)

1 lg orange, peeled and divided into small sections  (Organic is best.)

1/3 c unsweetened shredded coconut flakes  (Available in bulk at many stores, very reasonable at our local Winco.)

1-15 oz can of coconut cream (Trader’s usually carries this; coconut skim milk will work as well.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; Costco sells an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Steamed rice or quinoa  (See Quinoa Dishes, 2018/01/29.)

  1. produce

    Take broccoli out of freezer, open package, and set aside.  Place chicken in bowl of water to thaw.

  2. Spray all vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective produce spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes; then, rinse well.
  3. Chop onions in even 1/8” slices.  Heat 1/2 tsp of oil in a sauté pan, over medium heat; oil is ready, when a small piece of onion sizzles.  Reduce heat to med/low.  Add rest of onion and cook, stirring every several minutes until light color begins to form; then, stir more frequently until onions are dark brown.

    cutting cauliflower

    Place in a bowl and set aside.  While these are cooking, go to next step, but watch onions carefully.

  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in an extra large frying pan; salt and pepper poultry well; when small piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add rest of tenderloins.  Cut in bite-size pieces with a spatula as cooking; cook until light pink in center-do not overcook, as they will cook more later on.  Set aside on plate, SAVING JUICES IN PAN.
  5. Cut all cauliflower into small florettes, by first cutting sections off whole cauliflower.  Next remove excess stalk off these sections.  Finally, gently break these smaller sections into bite-size pieces, by pulling the florettes apart with a paring knife, see photo above.
  6. separating orange segments

    Chop pepper into 2”-strips.  Peel orange, break in half, cut halves in half, and divide into small sections (see photo).

  7. Over medium heat, heat left-over juices in large pan, to which 1 tbsp of oil is added.  When a small piece of cauliflower sizzles in pan, add the rest of it, as well as the pepper strips and broccoli.  Stir oils into vegetables; mix in dried coconut and coconut cream (be sure to gently stir the cream in the can first, to avoid a mess when pouring).  Sauté until desired tenderness; may cover with a lid to speed up process. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add chicken pieces and orange segments; adjust seasonings; cook until tenderloins are hot (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. Serve over rice or quinoa.  A powerfully good dish!

Nutty/Lemon/Coconut Bars

nutty/lemon/coconut bars

This recipe for nutty/lemon/coconut bars is from the mid-1960’s, given to me by my beautiful aunt Sheila.  She made them for her family, while living in East Glacier Park, Montana.

A decade later, after moving 90 miles away to Kalispell, this same aunt watched over me like a hen over her chick, as I was recovering from bulimia and anorexia then.  Having overcome much in her own life, she was willing to share her victories.  She approached her covering of me, as a humble friend, coming along side me gently. We spent numerous hours in each others company, usually over food, while we frequently perused the daily reading from her treasured God Calling, an inspired devotional written by two women in England.  How I recall our immense excitement over the accuracy, with which these prophetic, living words touched our souls!

Sheila loved good edibles.  From the seventies on, after her move to the city, however, her delight was to indulge in fine cuisine at restaurants, rather than spending the necessary preparatory time in a kitchen.  Her constant discovery of new establishments blessed us here in Portland, Oregon, where we both resided before she passed away in the 90’s.

Unlike my aunt, for me the height of indulgence in food is found in the strength imparted by the whole hands-on process, from the beginning to end stages, present in receiving nourishing substance.  This starts initially with the act of shopping, it intensifies as I press in over a stove, and it culminates in a grand finale as I partake of pleasures at the table.  For me, each level is essential in the mastery of the art of fine cuisine; likewise all require diligence in their practice,

For instance, shopping can bring joyful breakthrough, i.e., the hunting for specials at Fred Meyer recently benefited me greatly: the produce worker John and I were chatting, while he was doing his work and I was examining artichokes; he suddenly broke out excitedly, “I can teach you how to test this vegetable for freshness.”  He proceeded to show me how to squeeze its middle, instructing that if it flattens out it is past its prime.  Eagerly he promised that when watermelon season arrives, his expertise will be at its prime, for he never misses with this fruit-I can’t wait to share this tidbit with you also.

From the grocery store, I go to my kitchen, equipped with the best.  There I purpose to set my day’s thoughts aside, as I settle into cooking, striving for peace, which is critical, or mistakes get made, and our Father’s intended gratification is lost.

Julia Child comes to mind, with her passion for every aspect of fine food, especially her fervency in sharing her knowledge with the world; this can be seen clearly in her approach to helping young, aspiring chefs.  As with so many others, I was taken under her wings, with five encouraging letters in the 80’s and 90’s.  Her covering was a gift from God, who longs to envelop us with such protective shelter, as he did for me with my aunt in earlier years.  Indeed, I have become who I am today, by humbly receiving such guidance from authorities.

Sheila’s nutty coconut bars satisfy the child within, with their lemon savor; it’s my joy to share these with you.  Bon appetit!

finished product

Nutty/Lemon/Coconut Bars  Yields: about 30 bars.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 c plus 2 tbsp flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1 1/2 c brown sugar  (Organic is preferable, available at Costco, also at Trader Joe’s in an 1 1/2 lb bag.)

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 c unsweetened coconut shredded flakes (This is available in Bob’s Red Mill packages at most grocery stores, where it is also frequently sold in bulk.)

1 c pecans

1 1/2 c powdered sugar  (Organic can be found at Costco and Trader’s.)

1/3 c fresh lemon juice  (3 small/med lemons will be needed.)

  1. baked crust

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Cream butter and 1/2 c brown sugar in a bowl; add 1 c flour, over which baking powder is sprinkled evenly; work together with a fork, until it becomes mealy, like pie crust.  Pat this down firmly in the bottom of an ungreased 9” x 12” pan (this size pan is out-dated; you may substitute the equivalent in square inches, or around 108″; 2-8” x 8” pans will work; 2-9″ x 9″ pans, however, will be too large).  Bake for 12 minutes; then, remove from oven; see photo above.
  3. Meanwhile beat eggs well; mix in vanilla and salt; blend in 1 c brown sugar, 2 tbsp flour, coconut, and pecans.  Spread this mixture over baked-crust (see photo below).  Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).  Prepare frosting next.
  4. spreading coconut mixture over crust

    First, place 1 1/2 c powdered sugar in a medium bowl; then, measure and pour lemon juice over sugar; beat with a spatula until lumps are gone; set aside.

  5. When bars are through baking, immediately pour lemon frosting over top; cool before cutting.  How I love these!

Nutty Coconut Pie-a Variation of Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie

nutty coconut pie

This nutty coconut pie is my sister’s inspiration from 1980, during her days of running our family’s restaurant, which she did along with my parents and brother; there her food genius produced wonders for the American public that traveled to Glacier National Park, our home.

Among Maureen’s sumptuous creations, this coconut pie was one of my favorites: it is her modification of Blum’s coffee toffee pie-a recipe we received in 1968, when I had a serious eye operation in San Francisco (see Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie, 2017/08/14).  She ingeniously produced multiple variations of this basic receipt, which likewise thrill; their unique directions will follow over time.  You may make this dessert ahead of the holiday festivities; I prefer it partially frozen, which gives it an ice-cream-like texture.

As a child, I loved coconut: my father’s coconut cream pie, the favored coconut Russell Stover Easter eggs in our yearly baskets, and fresh coconut-to mention but a few of my titillating experiences with that food.

This fruit of the Cocos nucifera has been regarded as the jewel of the tropics; in which it often has been called the tree of life, for their people have depended on it not only for food, but shelter, and much more-every part of it has been used for both culinary and non-culinary purposes.

The powerful coconut originated in India and Southeast Asia; with the floating properties given by its light shell, it apparently made its way independently by marine currents, to every subtropical coastline in both hemispheres.

Historians also agree that it traveled the world at the hands of men; sea-faring Arab traders most likely brought this treasure to East Africa long ago (they actively were obtaining it from India by the 8th century AD).  These same traders were responsible for its introduction to Europeans on the trans-Asian Silk Road; the Venetian adventurer Marco Polo was among those who encountered this food; he named it “Pharaoh’s nut” in Egypt in the 13th century.  Beginning in the early 1500’s, this prized fruit made its way back to Europe following such explorer-colonizers as Portuguese Vasco da Gama.

Our prolific coconut evidently floated to the New World shores, where it prospered in its tropical lands; in addition, the European adventurers brought it to the Caribbean and Brazil, from whence it further spread to the American tropics.

For instance, in 1878, the merchant vessel Providencia, carrying this fruit from Trinidad, ran aground the coast of Florida; this resulted in a drastic change in the landscape, which became inundated with palm trees; nevertheless, the coconut didn’t change the economy much here, as was the frequent occurrence in other locales, where multiproducts resulted.

The coconut product, which interests me most, is oil, for I use this extensively in my cooking.  Many believe that this is the healthiest of all oils for our internal bodies, as well as being ideal in external beauty regimens.  Among its helpful health benefits are weight loss, boasting the immune system, and “oil pulling” in detoxifying and cleansing the body.

Here, however, I choose to elaborate on its exceptional cooking qualities, for it has the greatest resistance to oxidation (spoilage)-when heated-of any oil on earth; this is due to its 92% saturated fatty acids, which represents the highest percentage in any oil.  This effectual make-up provides extraordinary protection against heat and the formation of free radicals, which are associated with many diseases, such as cancer.  How is this?

Saturated fats are full of hydrogen atoms in their carbon atom chain, giving them a durable molecular structure; thus, they can be heated to high temperatures, resisting oxidation.  They are crucial for maximum health for this reason-among other sound benefits, which I haven’t room to address in this entry.

On the other hand, monounsaturated fatty acids lack a pair of hydrogen atoms, while polyunsaturated fatty acids are missing two or more.  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are highly unstable and prone to oxidation, without the durable molecular structure, as found in all saturated fatty acids.

Trans fat and interesterified fat are manufactured fat molecules that don’t exist in nature; they were generated in an attempt to get more solid, stable fatty substances (examples are Crisco and margarine).  Both these types should be avoided all together (for more on the history of Crisco, see 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30).

In a natural way, coconut oil achieves these objectives, which man was seeking by forming these fake fats.  Coconut, as the most saturated of all oils, is superlative both in being naturally stable/solid and in having an abundance of health attributes, over and above all other oils on the market, in my estimation.

As I have always loved the taste of coconut, I additionally find this oil enlarges the flavor of my foods.

Unsweetened dried coconut enhances our already delightful nutty coconut recipe.  By reducing this pie’s over-all sweetness, it allows for the full impact of the fruit.  (This unsweetened flake is available in bulk in many upscale grocery stores, as well as at our local, inexpensive Winco.)

May I encourage you to slow down and smell the roses: allow yourself the luxury of the time required to produce this memorable pleasure-a gift from God, made with the ease of my sister’s foolproof directions.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 508, 509.
  2. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973 by Reay Tannahill), pp. 141, 220n.
  3. http://www.coconut-oil-central.com/
  4. http://www.aramcoworld.com/en-US/Articles/January-2017/Cracking-Coconut-s-History
  5. https://www.livescience.com/54901-free-radicals.html

a piece of nutty coconut pie

Nutty Coconut Pie, a Variation on Blum’s  Yields: 1-9” pie, 8 servings.  Active prep time: 2 hr/  inactive prep time for setting up: 1/2 hr.  Note: can be kept in the freezer for long-term use, cutting off pieces as needed; serve partially thawed for a favored ice cream-like texture.

1 1/2 c nuts, chopped small and roasted

1 3/4 c unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted  (Available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

1 c unbleached white flour  (Optional: may choose to grind 2/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make a total of 1 c fresh-ground flour.)

1/2 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section at local supermarket.)

1/2 c plus 3-4 tbsp butter, softened

1/4 c brown sugar, packed down  (Organic is best; available sometimes at Costco and always at Trader Joe’s.)

1 oz unsweetened chocolate, grated  (Baker’s will do.)

1 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c cane sugar  (Organic is ideal; best buy is at Costco; also available in a smaller quantity at Trader’s.)

2 lg eggs, at room temperature  (If sensitive to raw eggs, may use pasteurized eggs for extra safety; available at some grocery stores.)

1 c heavy whipping cream

1/3 c powdered sugar  (High quality organic is available at Trader’s.)

3 tbsp, or more, instant vanilla pudding mix, only if needed as a stabilizer  (Be sure to have on hand for quick correction.)

Ganache

1 cup heavy whipping cream

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, or bittersweet chocolate of your choice  (These chocolate chips are available at Trader Joe’s.)

1 tsp vanilla

  1. finished ganache

    If grinding fresh flour, do so now.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place nuts on a cookie sheet in hot oven for 7 minutes, watching closely as not to burn; set aside to cool.
  3. Distribute coconut in a pan with edge; bake until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, stirring mid-way; set aside.  Leave oven on.
  4. Place bowl for whipping cream in freezer to chill; this greatly facilitates the whipping process (keep beaters at room temperature for filling).
  5. Make ganache-see list of ingredients above-by bringing cream to a very low simmer, over medium/low heat (should be very hot-steaming-but not boiling); add chocolate pieces and continue to cook, beating with a wire whisk, until mixture is glossy/shiny.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, set aside, see photo above.
  6. filling beaten to perfection

    Combine flour and salt in a large bowl; blend in well 4 tbsp butter with a fork, until texture is mealy (only 3 tbsp will be needed if using fresh-ground flour).

  7. Mix together with flour: brown sugar, 3/4 c cooled nuts, and 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, which has been grated with a sharp knife.  Blend in water and 1 tsp vanilla.
  8. Butter a pie plate generously; press pie dough in pan firmly with fingers. Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven at 350 degrees; cool in freezer.
  9. Beat 1/2 c butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add 3/4 c cane sugar, beating well with each addition.
  10. Add 1 egg; mix on medium speed for 5 minutes; beat in second egg

    layer of ganache on crust

    for 5 minutes more.  (This filling should be like fluffy whipped butter or soft whipped cream when done; see above photo. The following makes this preparation foolproof: it is so important to have ingredients at room temperature; if your kitchen is either very hot or cold, this mixture may curdle; this is easily corrected, by beating in 3 tbsp of instant vanilla pudding mix-more may be needed-to reach the desired soft, full-bodied consistency.  In this way, you will never fail with this recipe!)

  11. Wash and freeze beaters, along with bowl, for whipping cream with exceptional ease.
  12. Pour a thin layer of ganache on bottom of cooled pie crust-about 1/2 inch thick (see photo above); set the rest aside for garnish (leftovers can be refrigerated indefinitely in a glass jar; great, when warmed, over ice cream).  Place crust back in freezer for several minutes.
  13. Fold 3/4 c nuts and coconut into filling, SAVING 1/4 c coconut for garnish.
  14. filled pie

    Spoon filling evenly into pie crust (see photo); let mixture set-up by freezing for 1/2 hour.

  15. Meanwhile, using ice-cold utensils, beat cream until it starts to thicken; add powdered sugar and vanilla; continue beating until stiff.
  16. When filling is set, cover pie with whipped cream; drizzle ganache over top; garnish with toasted coconut (see very top photo).
  17. If keeping for long-term use, be sure to freeze uncovered; then, cover extra well with plastic wrap.  I love serving this partially frozen for optimum pleasure.

Serungdeng Kacang

serungdeng kacang

serungdeng kacang

The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my varied dishes in the early 1980’s, when I was catering historical events in Billings, Montana.  In those days, I sought recipes that allowed me to offer thematic meals from diverse cultures and times. To my joy, I discovered a host of receipts from Indonesia; thus, I presented an Indonesian rijsttafel to my eager audiences.

Prior to this rijsttafel, I presented a gala event, a Moroccan affair, which was to  become one of my favorite memories in the history of my business; it best defines what my work entailed back then.

I loved to act in my youth and knew the Billings’ theatrical community well.  As an aside, actors often make a living in the restaurant business; they are adept at waiting tables.  Then my creative dinners needed both excellent service and improvisation.  An incredible fit was made with my Billings’ thespian friends; thus, I frequently employed them in my catered dramas.

My most treasured memory using this partnership was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre, in which I presented an authentic Moroccan dinner, for a staged “Night at Rick’s Place”.  The five winning tickets, from those auctioned off-each with their three guests-were transported back to World War II in the theatre’s upstairs.

This large room had been converted into Rick’s Place, from the movie Casablanca.  It was furnished with a bar off to one side of the restaurant, while the dining room consisted of five tables of four, clothed with white linen.  The city’s leading actors peopled the bar scene. More of these, dressed in tuxedos, served the sumptuous meal to the unsuspecting partakers in this suspense.

Broadway arts resulted!  Numerous brawls took place in the bar; the Gestapo arrived; guests were pick-pocketed, and on and on.  Talk about fun.

My part was the researched African meal.  That afternoon, after weeks of cooking, I showed up for the final preparations in the theatre’s limited kitchen. Behold, the limits escalated upon my arrival, for the stove wasn’t working!

The true test of my creativity came.  Nevertheless, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates.  The event came off triumphantly, as I, in  Moroccan dress, told the innocent company the colorful history as each dish was served.

I repeated this dinner numerous times in my career, but this show never again reached the thrill of its original occurrence.  That night in “Casablanca” best exemplified what I did with my work then.

Now my food history presentations entertain larger audiences, but still guests participate in dinner theatre type events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful stories.

Today my grand affairs mostly involve Northwest history, for which I was trained in graduate school.  However back in the 80’s and 90’s, I presented other cultures and times in my gala occasions.  Among these many thematic experiences was the above mentioned Indonesian rijsttafel, from which today’s entry originated.  A rijsttafel is a banquet of delicacies from this southeast Asian republic, formerly known at the Dutch East Indies.

Serungdeng kacang is a condiment for rice dishes in these ethnic feasts. My particular recipe comes from Java, one of the many islands in Indonesia. These coconut crumbs, spiced with onion and garlic, are spread liberally over the rice portions, in addition to a variety of other garnishes.

For me, serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is compatible with Indian curries, acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre, and-my favorite-provides the crowning touch to salads!

I always keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand, by making a double batch and storing it in a sealed storage bag.  The beauty of this topping is it lasts a long time, if you are disciplined…

simple mincing of onion

simple mincing of onion

Serungdeng Kacang  Yields: 3 c.  Total prep time: 2 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min/ inactive cooling time: 1 hr.

6 tbsp yellow onion, minced  (You will need a med/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)

6 med/large garlic cloves, chopped fine

2 tbsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality here.)

2 c unsweetened coconut chips  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)

1 c roasted, unsalted peanuts  (Also available at low cost in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. An easy way to mince onion is to peel it, leaving the root on; next, score it by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the other direction.  After onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife (see photo).
  2. Start by measuring 6 tbsp of minced onion; save rest of onion for other cooking.  With a mortar and pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt.  When this is a thick puree, set aside.  (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
  3. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over med/high heat.  Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it begins to turn brown, immediately lower temperature to med/low; oil is ready for cooking.  Meantime mix together coconut and onion mixture in a large bowl.  Make sure coconut is completely coated.
  4. When oil is hot, add coconut mixture; mix well with spoon to evenly coat fruit with oil.
  5. Cook about 20 minutes (over med/low heat), or until golden brown in color and slightly wet, stirring every 5 minutes, so as not to burn.  Let it, however, cook for full 5-minute increments, without stirring; this allows for the coconut to brown.  As you stir it, carefully scrape bottom of pan with a spatula.
  6. When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice in this last 5-minute period.  Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the heat-retentive cast iron pan.
  7. Remove from heat and be sure to leave in skillet to cool; this completes the drying process.  (See top photo for finished product.)
  8. This lasts for months, kept in a sealed storage bag.

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco

Bolitos de chocolat y coco

bolitos de chocolat y coco

1985 was a big year for me, for I traveled to Peru that summer to study food, while later in September I went to Paris, with the intent of moving my business there. (Read more about my time in France in Balsamic Vinaigrette, 2016/08/22.)

My jocund days in Peru were filled with the warm blazing sun, but nights were very cold, as July brings winter to this nation in the southern hemisphere.

Machu Picchu met my love for mountains in a grand way.  The ancient trail leading to these ruins made for an arduous climb; we got off the train and labored, with copious sweat, for hours to complete its last leg.  What a memorable day!

My far-reaching, historical catering business was three years old during my time in South America-in the 1980’s-and my mind was a sponge for details about food. While there, every morsel that went into my mouth came out as a comment in my journal.  Most of this keen eating took place in inexpensive cafes, where chickens were always roasting on open hearths.  The better of these humble restaurants had guinea pig and Cebiche, raw white fish “cooked” in lemon juice.  Street vendors’ food also provided me with rich information, but my greatest joy was the private dinner invitations I received, to both rich and poor homes.  Note: there are only these two classes there.

Karen, my then neighbor in Billings, Montana, and her Peruvian boyfriend inspired me to make this colorful sojourn.  Indeed Chino’s family blessed my trip: I may not be alive today, but for them, as great trauma occurred for me in this country. Fortunately for me, his family was extremely influential; for instance, his second cousin was president during my visit.  (This man was ousted a number of days after I left; Chino’s brother-in-law was murdered by terrorists several months later.)

My trouble came when I and my traveling companion, a longtime friend from Paris, let down our guards.  We always covered each other’s backs in the marketplace, as robbery is ever-present in this poor nation; we, however, went our separate ways one day in Cusco.  On my own, I was mesmerized by the wide array of vendor’s goods: blankets on the ground displayed raw meats, brightly dressed women loudly announced their vibrant vegetables, modest pots and pans were set up elsewhere.  Stopping I indulged in a delicious, doughnut-like pastry; next, I reached for my funds to buy freshly squeezed orange juice.  My wallet was gone!

Absolutely everything of importance was in it: my passport, money, travelers’ checks, credit cards, and return ticket home.  This unseasoned traveler was without identity and provision in a volatile place.

God’s grace got me to my homeland safely through a multitude of miracles. The last of these happened just hours before my plane’s departure, for the president of Aero Peru, a friend of Chino’s family, reinstated my plane ticket at this critical moment.

Even before I experienced this culture, my repertoire of catered meals included a Peruvian dinner. The background for this authentic repast came from a cook book, from that country, shared by Chino’s girlfriend; nevertheless, this account was strictly for the upper class.  For hors d’ouvres at these events, I used the youth’s favored dish Ocopa-chunks of boiled, bland purple potatoes, topped with cheese, walnuts, mild chiles, and eggs. The main course boasted of Aji de Gallina, an incredible walnut chicken. Dessert was Suspiro Limeno, a light, airy custard; the feast ended with Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco.  To this day, these chocolate/coconut balls are the finishing touch at ever meal I host.

Chocolate has an interesting history.  Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez introduced cocao beans to Europe in 1528, when he returned from “New Spain”.  There the Aztecs mixed cocao paste with spices to make a thick drink.  In their convent at Oaxaca, creative Spanish nuns added sugar, which made this chocolate beverage even more palatable.  1

Chocolate was highly prized then and still is today; these superb, truffle-like candies-a rich man’s food in Peru-will please any chocolate lover.  This recipe is simple and foolproof; don’t miss this delectable treat.

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 89.
Making bolitos de chocolat y coco

chocolate after stirring in coconut

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco (Peruvian chocolate/coconut balls)  Yields: about 6 dozen balls. Total prep time: 45 min.

12 oz unsweetened chocolate  (Baker’s works well.)

1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk  (It’s important to use Borden’s Eagle Brand.)

2 tsp butter

2 c unsweetened fine-flake coconut  (Available in bulk at our local Winco and other supermarkets.)

  1. Break chocolate into pieces in a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan.
  2. Add butter, melt slowly over low heat.  Watch carefully, so as not to burn.
  3. Meanwhile open the can of milk and place 1/2 c of coconut in a measuring cup.  Set aside.
  4. When chocolate is completely melted, quickly add condensed milk.
  5. Stir over low heat for about 30 seconds; it will start forming a soft ball. Toward the end of the 30 seconds, stir in the coconut.  Do not overcook, or chocolate will be dry.  Immediately remove from heat after these 30 seconds; continue to stir vigorously until soft ball is formed all the way.  See photo.
  6. Cool just enough for handling.
  7. Place 1/2 c of coconut in a small bowl.  (You will add more coconut to the dish as needed.)  Form small balls of chocolate and roll in coconut, placing them in an 8×8 inch pan.
  8. Chill chocolate for several hours; then, transfer balls to a freezer-storage bag.  These will keep for a very long time, if you double the bag for long-term freezing.
  9. Excellent chocolate, so easy, absolutely foolproof.