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Simply Caribbean

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The headline is an oxymoron, obviously. June is National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, and Caribbean cuisine is so far removed from what we are used to up here in the Northeast, it would take my whole article just to give you the ingredients and preparation for one dish.

Coconut is the most repeated item in Caribbean cooking, with coconut milk leading the pack. But don't confuse coconut milk with what you find in the middle of a coconut. It is the extraction of coconut oil and flavor into milk. To make it at home is simple. In a large bowl, place 4 c. grated coconut. Bring 2 c. milk to a scald on the stove, remove and pour over the coconut. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Strain the coconut mixture through a strainer, reserving the liquid. If you would like, remove the strained coconut into a muslin or cheese cloth and squeeze even more coconut flavor. Store this coconut milk in the refrigerator until cool. The cream will rise to the top, so before transferring this milk into an air-tight container, whisk well. That's it!

What can you do with coconut milk? How about starting with your own version of a true Pina Colada?

Pina Colada

  • 1 c. white rum
  • 1 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 c. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 c. diced fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream
  • 6 c. crushed ice
  • 4 wedges fresh pineapple (garnish)

Blend all ingredients except the pineapple wedges. Serve in 4 tall glasses over crushed ice and garnish with pineapple wedges.

Want a Caribbean sweet treat for the kids? Try...

Sofesofe Fa'I (Baked bananas with coconut milk)

  • 6 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • Chopped peanuts or pistachios
  • 1 c. chunk pineapple, well drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bananas in an oven-proof, non-metallic baking dish. Shake coconut milk and pour over bananas. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top, followed by peanuts and pineapple. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold over ice cream or simply by itself.

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