Thursday, March 1, 2012

A hint of the tropics

I live in Maine.  It's winter here from October to May, and that is way too long.  Don't get me wrong, I love winter.  I moved here to enjoy winter.  I love snow, the smell of a real fireplace burning (no propane fireplace for this girl), and of course I love making warm, hearty, winter comfort food.  But this winter we've barely had any snow.  It lingers around 40 degrees and the ground is simply... soggy.  We've had no roaring fires in the living room.  And I certainly haven't been putting The Little Big Book of Comfort Food to good use.  Yes, I own that cookbook.  Frankly, I've had better winters in suburban Jersey.

What do normal people do to combat winter blues?  Go on vacation!  I'm a med student, which is far from normal and lacking in free time and an income, so vacation is out.  Spring break?  We still get one of those, but I've got boards to study for and far more interesting people to see than a bunch of obnoxious college undergrads interrupting my relaxation time.

So what do I do?  I douse a winter vegetable with some tropical flavor. 

Coconut Collard Greens with Acorn Squash
adapted from Peas and Thank You

You need:
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  •  2 T coconut oil, divided
  • 1 T soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 1 T maple syrup (the REAL kind)
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T unsweetened coconut, toasted
First things first, you need to cut open your squash, scoop out the seeds and wrestle with it to peel the skin off.  Least favorite part of cooking with squash... but worth the end result.

Cut the squash into cubes, toss with 1 T of melted coconut oil, and roast on a baking sheet at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes.  It would be wise to toss around the squash with a spatula once or twice while it's cooking.

Meanwhile, add the other T of coconut oil to the biggest skillet you have and saute the onion for 4-5 minutes.  Add the collard greens next and toss around so they become coated with the coconut oil.  Add the remaining ingredients (coconut milk, soy sauce, S&P, nutmeg) and stir well.  I skimmed the thick part of the coconut milk that sits at the top of the can out before pouring in the milk.  I suggest you do the same.

Bring the skillet contents to a low boil then lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  At the same time, toast your coconut flakes in a smaller skillet on low heat, tossing often so that it doesn't burn.  You can toast them on a sheet in the oven as well-- I choose the skillet method because I will absolutely forget about the toasting coconut if it isn't right in front of me. 

At some point these three steps will all be complete:

Add the squash to the collard green mixture and stir together.

Spoon out your coconuty mixture into serving bowls and sprinkle with coconut.

I ate this with brown rice on the side, but when I ate the leftovers the next day I just threw the rice right into the mix.

I probably won't make it to the tropics any time soon, but at least I can cook like it!

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