Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Cooking By The Book - Lychee-Coconut Sorbet
Cooking By The Book - Lychee-Coconut Sorbet

My overflowing kitchen library shelves contain three types of books: cookbooks (hundreds of them), collections of food essays/memoirs, and reference books. In the latter category one of the most referenced volumes is Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. Peeking from the edges of its pages are several paper sticky-tab dividers I placed to quickly open to the most used sections: Food Matches Made in Heaven, Seasoning Matches Made in Heaven, and Common Accompaniments to Entrees.

Culinary Artistry has introduced to me to some surprisingly delicious flavor pairings, such as beets and horseradish with corned beef, and lobster and vanilla. One day while trying to decide what to do with a can of lychees I had purchased at an Asian grocery store a while back, I thumbed open The Book.

It took me a moment to find the tiny lychee section under “litchi nuts”, where I learned that coconut, cream, and kiwi fruit are great partners for lychees. Sounded like dessert to me. Some quick searches of my recipe files and the Internet uncovered quite a few lychee ice cream recipes, but one particular one for Lychee Coconut Sorbet from Gourmet Magazine stood out because not only did it contain two of the three items considered to be the lychee’s flavor mate, but it appeared to be a breeze to make, with only three ingredients and about 5 minutes preparation time.

The secret to its quick and easy preparation is canned Cream of Coconut, that thick sweetened, creamy ingredient used in making pina coladas and other tropical cocktails. Coco Lopez is the common brand but Goya also makes one. The cream of coconut, along with some fresh lime juice, the canned lychees, and some of their syrup are simply pureed in the blender until smooth and frozen in an ice cream maker.

Tropical sorbet made from canned convenience foods?! Well, I had all the ingredients on hand and a few minutes to spare so I quickly whipped up a batch and in about 35 minutes I tasted Lychee Coconut Sorbet.

The aroma was tropical, almost floral. The sorbet was tangy and very refreshing, with the subtle coconut flavor mellowing the lychee flavor. This is guest-worthy!

Lychee Coconut Sorbet is perfect dessert fare after a spicy Asian meal (Chinese, Indian or Thai). Gourmet’s recipe serves it with fresh mango slices but I paired it with homemade Mango Gelato.

Lychee Coconut Sorbet
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2004
Yield 1 pint

1 20-oz can lychees in syrup
1/2 cup well-stirred sweetened Cream of Coconut (not coconut milk or coconut cream)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Drain lychees, reserving syrup. Purée lychees, cream of coconut, 1/4 cup of the reserved syrup, and 2 tablespoons lime juice in a blender until smooth. Freeze in ice cream maker.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007
An Indian Side Dish Goes Mainstream - Potato and Green Bean Chatt
An Indian Side Dish Goes Mainstream -
Potato and Green Bean Chatt

I seem to have become an avid collector of flexible side dish recipes. A “flexible” recipe for me must meet quite stringent criteria. It can fit comfortably in several slots of a menu, as a starter, salad, side dish or vegetable course. It tastes equally good served warm, room temperature, or chilled. And most importantly, despite a strong flavorful personality, it must get along well with many types of foods and cuisines. Potato and Green Bean Chatt is my latest such discovery.

Because of its Indian background I first served it with Grilled Tandoori Lamb chops. The fresh mint in the Chatt complemented the lamb, as mint traditionally does, but it also offered a cooling contrast to the spicy heat of the Tandoori flavors.

Despite its Indian origins this chatt is not limited to an Indian menu. The warm cumin flavor makes it a perfect partner for Mexican food. Its bold seasonings of lemon, mint, and mild spiciness complement the simplicity of broiled fish, roasted chicken, or grilled beef. Served cold as a potato salad, it goes well with almost any simple sandwich.

And those concerned about their fat and sodium intake will appreciate the complete lack of fat in this recipe and how little salt is needed, unusual for a potato dish (although when served chilled, the flavors are muted and it needs just a bit more salt).

Potato and Green Bean Chatt has earned a place in my “flexible side dish” files, right alongside previous favorites such as Summertime Roasted Tomatoes and Onions, Beet and Feta Salad, and Tortellini with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.

Potato and Green Bean Chat
Adapted from Sunset Magazine May 1989
Yield 6 servings

1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed
6 medium-size red thin-skinned potatoes (2 to 2 1/2 lb. total)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt to taste
Mint sprigs for garnish

In a 5- to 6-quart pot, bring about 3 quarts water and a spoonful of salt to boiling. Add green beans and cook uncovered until just tender, about 6 - 8 minutes. Lift out beans with tongs and immerse in ice water to stop cooking. Drain and dry.

Add whole potatoes to boiling water and simmer, covered, until tender when pierced, 25 to 35 minutes. Drain and let cool until comfortable to handle.

Meanwhile mix together cumin, cayenne, black pepper, coriander, mustard, and hot water. Cut green beans into 1 - 1/2-inch lengths.

Peel potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes, and place in a large bowl. Pour water-spice mixture over potatoes, toss lightly and let stand about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To potatoes, add green beans, chopped mint, onion, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Mix gently and pour into a shallow bowl. Garnish with mint sprigs.

May be served warm, room temperature or chilled.

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