I bought a whole coconut for %.79 at the commissary on base. Normally, I don’t stop at the commissary on base. It’s a constant battle in my head, and it goes something like this:
–I’m already on base so meathead surgeon can look at my belly and pronounce that I have not yet died from his technique in appendix removal. Why not stop by the commissary? And the BX, too.
–I forgot how much I hate the BX, with all the cadets milling around in ugly outfits. The guys are ALL skinny and in need of Accutane, and the girls ALL have wide asses. Not necessarily big, but WIDE. They all look totally miserable, and I would be too if I had to wear that outfit in Texas heat.
–Oooh! I forgot that the BX has cheap, tax-free liquor. I love the BX!
–I hate the BX. I have to give them my military ID to buy anything, and they always look at Chris’s rank and then eyeball my wedding ring, and then eyeball me. The implication, sometimes verbally expressed and sometimes expressed via body language, is that I must be married to a much older man. This is not the case. The case is that Chris has been in the Air Force since he was 18 years old, and that the government will reward the medical corps for ANYTHING. There are commendations and promotions and awards for such accomplishments as “Not Getting Cheez-it crumbs in the official military keyboard” or “Wearing your hat right-side up”. Whatever.
–OMG Armani sunglasses for $40! I love the BX! Okay, off to the commissary.
–I hate the commissary. They have giant carts and the entrance is really narrow and has sliding doors that try to close on you. And the whole store smells like pee.
–YAY! Creme Fraiche for $2! I LOVE the commissary.
–Ugh. Commissary is BS. How can they not have ANY free-range chicken? One brand of meat, period? Nothing that hasn’t been stuck in a feedlot? Guess we’re eating tofu again. Stupid commissary.
–Is that a coconut for $.79? That’s incredible. *shakeshake* Oh! And it’s all fresh and full of liquid!
–How can this store, which is manned ENTIRELY by Asian wives who have been imported by military men stationed in Korea and Japan, not have a single person who knows what yuzu is? Even the sushi bar doesn’t know about yuzu. Grrrrr.
–Tax free again. And the groceries are practically free. I have to ask the cashier if she’s sure she got everything. Then I remember how cheap things are on base, and it all seems worthwhile. Until the next time…
So I ended up with this whole coconut, just because it was cheap and fresh, and no idea what I’d do with it. The easy decision would be to make a coconut cake, but then I’d have an entire labor-intensive cake and nobody to eat it but me and Chris, and Chris insists he hates coconut, until anytime we actually EAT coconut, when he remembers that he likes it a lot, except when it’s the prepackaged crap that is used for Santa’s beard on the gross kind of Christmas cookies. So no on the cake.
I posted my dilemma on Facebook, and got several suggestions immediately. The winner was Nate of “Nate and Becky are Awesome.” He suggested a tamarind and coconut beef dish with Indian origins.
Peter was a close second with his idea of a coconut bong, but sadly Chris is in line for another commendation for “Not Smoking Pot, Even Though He Really Wants To,” so we’re abstaining. My husband desperately wants to smoke pot, since he’s certain that all college kids smoke pot, and that he missed out on a big part of the college experience by attending the Air Force Academy, where they strongly frown on (read: will beat you for) marijuana use. I’m pretty sure his yearning will fizzle out by the time he gets out of the military and can actually try it without the threat of court-martial. Plus, that’s many years from now, and it will be legal by that point and have lost its appeal.
I made Nate’s recipe (Fall apart beef cubes with spinach and coconut), and only changed a couple of things. The recipe is long, so I’ll post it on my recipe space, but the gist is that you braise cubes of beef (the recipe suggests stew meat, but I only had strip in the freezer, so I used that and added some fat) in water after marinating it in spiced yogurt. Then, after the beef is tender, you add tamarind paste and fresh, grated coconut. And spinach leaves (I only had frozen spinach, so I used that).
It was good. Very good. But I missed the mark by using the frozen spinach, I think. It tasted really…spinachy. Almost a callaloo kind of tang. Weird. I served it over buttered rice, warmed up some roti, and made yogurt orbs with my sodium alginate and a squeeze bottle. Most of you know about spherification, but for those who don’t, basically you take a liquid, dip it into a solution of .65% sodium alginate, and a thin membrane forms immediately around the liquid, but leaves the inside as a liquid. So you can hold a ball of it in your hand, then spear it with a fork and it gushes out all over the place. It’s totally sweet. And I’m going to figure out how to spherify butter by Thanksgiving. That’s my goal.
After a big meal of Indian-style flavors, I thought a light, fresh dessert would be nice. I reduced some watermelon juice, sweetened it, and mixed it with coconut milk and light cream to make an ice cream base. 20 minutes in the ice cream machine and SHAZAM, watermelon coconut ice cream. So pleasing on the palate, and such a cool flavor combination.
While all of that was very good, the highlight of my day had to be popping popcorn in bacon fat, and then tossing the crispy bacon bits in the popcorn once it was popped. Seriously? That exists? Yes. And it was fabulous.