This is so not local, but I’ve had a couple of requests so I’m going to post a recipe for raw vegan coconut “ice cream”. But first a digression: while I started this blog mainly to share tips on local eating in Toronto – and especially what to do with CSA veggies in the winter – I’ve been experimenting with raw foods lately, which is harder to do locally because so many of them (especially desserts) rely on tropical ingredients like coconut, avocado and bananas.
So I want to emphasize that while I believe strongly in eating locally as much as possible, both for environmental reasons and to help local farmers, I don’t like to be a fanatic about it. I don’t like to be a fanatic about any eating philosophy, because following a strict set of rules is boring, way too simplistic, and prevents you from having to think about your food. I’ve been vegetarian since I was a teenager – no meat, no poultry, no fish – but I’m not going to freak out about a bit of fish sauce in a restaurant meal, or my grilled eggplant sitting next to someone else’s grilled chicken. Life’s too short, and really, neither of those affects any of the reasons I chose to stop eating animals.
In the same way, while I refuse to buy strawberries out of season (they don’t taste good, anyways), I’m not going to refuse them if someone serves them to me. And supporting Ontario peach growers doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of bananas. I try to buy things locally if they’re grown locally, but sometimes, I want fresh pineapple, too.
Which brings me to the coconuts. Young coconuts are an amazing food, and extremely versatile when it comes to creating dairy-free desserts. Coconut water is high in electrolytes, making it a perfect post-exercise (i.e., post-sweating) drink, and the meat blends up nice and smooth and creamy.
And besides, even though they’re shipped from Thailand to my local Chinatown, it’s not impossible that they have a lower carbon footprint than locally produced dairy – especially if it has sugar added. (I made the recipe below with local honey.) After all, as the Washington Post reported on last week, “a study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week.” That’s food for thought.
But back to the coconuts… as I said, I bought them in Chinatown, 3 for $5. These are the ones that you can get in the Caribbean with a straw in to drink the coconut water, and now that I know how amazing the coconut meat is, I’m appalled at how many get thrown away there and here after the water is drunk. You can find tutorials online for opening them, but basically, you chop them open, drain the water, then split them in half and scrape out the meat. I would estimate that you would need two or three to make this recipe, and if you don’t have access to coconuts, you can make it with dried coconut and regular water. A regular blender worked fine for me, and I used honey instead of agave syrup. I don’t have an ice cream maker so I made it with the first set of directions.
The recipe comes from the cookbook Ani’s Raw Food Desserts, but I got it from a British raw food magazine called Get Fresh (I get an electronic subscription).
Ani Phyo’s Coconut Ice Kream
(makes 4 servings)
1 cup cashews
1 cup ﬁltered water or coconut water
1/3 cup agave syrup (I used honey)
1/4 cup shredded coconut or 1 cup fresh young coconut meat
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
Combine the cashews, water, agave syrup, coconut and oil in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Scoop the mixture into a container and place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. Every hour or so, remove and mix well. Place back in freezer to chill. Repeat until you achieve the desired consistency (5 to 7 hours).
To make in an ice cream maker, chill the mixture in the freezer for an hour or two, until cold. Scoop the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Will keep for several weeks in the freezer. Variations: swirl in a sauce, like raspberry or chocolate, or try folding in a fruit, like blueberries or chopped strawberries.