I am all about the coconut. You might say, I'm crazy for coconut. Coconut oil, butter, milk, I use it all. For years I avoided coconut, having been persuaded that it's high levels of saturated fat would harden my arteries and leave me dead by 32. (Yes, I was a hypochondriac and easily influenced). My first bite of coconut oil came 3 years ago when I took a friend's advice to use it in a saute. I had done a good deal of research on coconut oil's healing properties (aids in digestion/absorption of vitamins and minerals, is loaded with lauric acid that prevents viral and bacterial infection) but I still couldn't let go of the fact that it might kill me. "One time," I thought. "What's cooking with coconut oil one time going to hurt?" The moment the oil hit the pan I was a goner. The amazing aroma of coconut-y goodness filled the house and I was transported to a tropical island of beautiful sand dunes and beaches. And that was just the smell, people. I hadn't even tasted it yet! The taste as you can imagine was terrific and since then coconut oil has been a staple in my cooking ever since.
Let's just quickly debunk the myth around saturated fat. Shockingly, saturated fat is essential for proper body function. Saturated fatty acids aid in hormone production, strengthen cellular membranes, and stabilize proteins to support the immune system. Now, don't get worried. I'm not talking about low quality fat from antibiotic stuffed, commercially raised animals and dairy products. But rather the good omega 3's and saturated fats prevalent in organic, pastured raised live stock, butter, and yes, coconut oil. Another reason to buy local pasture raised meat: Their fat is free of dangerous pharmaceuticals. Antibiotics and hormones are stored in the fat cells of commercially raised animals which renders their meat and fat toxic to us. It is this chemically laden fat that endangers our health and must be avoided.
So enough preaching about fat. Here is a dish I demoed for my cooking class just this week. It is a perfect fall one pot meal that has everything you need. Yummy coconut, greens, beans, and sweet potato. Doesn't get much better than that!
Coconut Sweet Potato and Kale Stew
Don't be overwhelmed by the number of ingredients. This dish comes together very quickly.
2 teaspoons unrefined virgin coconut oil
2 cups onion, diced
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus additional to taste
3 cups sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 can organic coconut milk
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped
squeeze of lemon
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Heat oil in a good sized pot over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add sweet potato, garbanzo beans, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon and saute for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, coconut milk and salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes.
While the sweet potato is cooking, wash and chop the kale. You may discard the stems but I like to keep them. Chop the greens into bite size pieces. Add the kale to the pot and simmer, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes. Greens should be tender and the sweet potato soft. Adjust the seasoning to taste and remove the cinnamon stick.
Just before serving, squeeze in lemon juice and top with fresh cilantro and toasted almonds.