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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Coconuts to the Rescue!

As New Year’s Eve approaches, many savvy imbibers are laying in a supply of Coconut Water, purported to be the best “morning after” pick-me-up on earth.  Whether this is true or not, it does contain an array of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, and has become wildly popular.

Coconut Water

Coconut Water

At the Market in Cuzco, Peru

At the Market in Cuzco, Peru

It is simply the liquid inside a coconut, sometimes erroneously referred to as coconut milk. More fun than consuming from a bottle is to sip straight from the source, perhaps from a street vendor in the tropics, or at markets all over the world, even in two mile high Cuzco, Peru.

In 1521, Antonio Pigafetta, the scribe on Magellan’s history making circumnavigation, commented about coconut, new to the Europeans:  “From the center of this marrow there flows a water which is clear and sweet and very refreshing, like an apple.”

The origin of the coconut, whether from the Philippines or Asia or even the Americas, is still being debated. It is thought that earlier species were more buoyant than today’s, more easily transported serendipitously on the ocean currents. But there are also arguments that coconut dispersion occurred when people inhabited new lands and cultivated them.

Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk

 

 

Cream of Coconut

Cream of Coconut

Coconut milk, coconut cream and cream of coconut are all products derived from adding water to pulverized  and squeezing out the liquid, the milk being the most watery and the cream of coconut, the least.

In the US, the best-selling brand of Cream of Coconut (Coco Lopez) is thick, has added sugar (as well as preservatives) and packs a whopping 130 calories per fluid ounce.  It is also a critical ingredient in delicious Pina Colada, a mélange of said coconut plus pineapple juice and rum; if you have to ask about the (mega) calories, just order rum and diet cola.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has had a rebirth in popularity. It was believed to be dangerous, based on old studies that examined hydrogenated coconut oil. Pure coconut oil is reputedly healthy, and has a very high flash point, meaning that it remains stable at unusually high temperatures, making it good as a frying medium.

Coconut Rice

Coconut Rice

Of course, coconut pulp is an ingredient in lots of delicious foods, including coconut rice, which myMEGusta  discovered in Barbados.

As for macaroons,  she prefers the coconut variety over the currently chi-chi French macaroons made with almonds. And what’s not to smile about with coconut cakes and coconut cream pies! You can even get coconut milk ice cream.

Macaroon

Macaroon

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

There’s an urban myth that 150 people per year meet their end by being bopped by a falling coconut (more than are killed by sharks!). When digging into the subject, myMEGusta learned that this is a number someone made up. But, responsible coconut palm owners do keep their trees harvested, just in case.

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Whole Food

Actually, whole fish.

Anyone who has ever tackled a lobster, or eaten a clam or oyster, has been faced with an entire sea creature. And this is why myMEGusta is so surprised at the very American aversion to whole fish on a plate.

After

After

Before

Before

 

But, we don’t judge, so let’s talk about ordering a whole fish and dealing with it.

First, why?  Because a fish cooked on the bone is better. Period. The meat adjacent to the bones stays moister and tastier than if directly exposed to heat, and this is try whether grilled, or fried, or baked in foil or parchment.

Dover Sole Service

Dover Sole Service

Dover Sole!

Dover Sole!

 

Then, how? Just ask the waiter to bone it for you.  They’ll take it away, whether back to the kitchen or to a side stand, and, voila, lovely little filets return on the plate. They’ll even do this at the Red Lobster, it’s not some kind of fancy French service.

But what about the head?

It’s the best part, although we realize that most readers won’t believe this. The meat is tender and rich, and the cheeks are a real delicacy. You can even buy cod cheeks in fish markets in the Boston area!whole fish chinese

On one occasion, at a business banquet in Hong Kong, one course was a whole, big fish. Fortunately for myMEGusta, no one else seated at her table knew much about eating this, so they all took tasty chunks of the body meat (OK, that’s what most normal people would do), and she was able to grab the head without appearing to be greedy (no one else wanted it). Delicious!  And the waiter came over and said “You know how to eat Chinese food!!”

There are traditions and myths about whole fish.

When a whole fish – whether a trout or a sole or a sea bass – is served in France, the head is always on the left side of the plate. We have no idea why this is, but vividly remember a chef-instructor in Paris many years ago saying “La tete a gauche, Mademoiselle!”  (“The head on the left, Miss!”) Readers!  If you know why, other than tradition, please comment!

As for fishing related myths, the Japanese never turn a fish once plated, carefully lifting the bones to reach the meat on the plate-side, because of an old belief that if the fish is flipped over, the fishing boat will capsize. They also believe that the presence of a woman on that vessel will cause it to sink. Then there’s the American superstition about bananas bringing bad luck on a fishing boat. We don’t make this stuff up.

No bananas onboard, please.

No bananas onboard, please.

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