Coconut Macaroons. Oh, Mother of Science, what'll they think of next?

Okay, so how many of you knew coconut was so incredibly healthy? Let's see a show of hands. One . . . two?
Apparently this tropical wonder is highly valued for its amazing healing powers. Why, coconut water alone (which I drink like a lonely sailor on leave), provides our bodies with antioxidants, and it's loaded with vitamins and minerals. And, studies have confirmed coconut's use in treating some of the following conditions: Nausea, Ulcers, Baldness (would I make this up? ;-), jaundice, sore throat, skin infections, and the list goes on.
Which brings me to the health benefits of these Coconut Macaroons. Are there any?

Well, no.

But, if you're a coconut head like me, and happen to be in the mood for a real treat, then these, lighter-than-air macaroons will (temporarily) fix whatever ails you. These macaroons are not like the ones most of us grew up with. Remember those? Made with sweetened condensed milk and sweetened shredded coconut. Truth is, I still like those cloyingly-sweet delicacies. But these, I shamelessly confess, are quite a bit better.

The following technique combines unsweetened coconut folded into an Italian meringue, resulting in the lightest little puffs of coconut, which will instantly dissolve in your mouth, causing your eyes to roll into the back of your head.

You may be tempted to enhance the meringue by adding flavorings, and extracts, but resist the temptation. These innocent looking clouds pack a wallop of coconut flavor with very few ingredients.

Coconut Macaroons

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
3 large egg whites at room temperature
3 cups (8 ounces) finely grated, unsweetened (desiccated) coconut

Special equipment: a standing electric mixer, a candy thermometer

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cook sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, until it reaches soft-ball stage (or registers 238°F on a candy thermometer). While syrup boils, beat whites in standing mixer on low speed until stiff peaks form.

Gradually pour hot syrup in a thin stream down the side of the bowl into the whites, beating constantly on high speed (be careful not to let syrup touch beaters when pouring, or it will spatter and harden). Continue beating until meringue is room temperature. It will resemble a very thick, marshmallow creme. Stir in coconut. The following may be too intense for some viewers ;-)

But, seriously, don't you just want to dive right in and roll in it? Yeah, me neither.

Put mixture in a large pastry bag, with a large, round pastry tip * (I used a 1A tip). And pipe mixture onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake macaroons 1 sheet at a time, in middle of oven for 12 minutes, or until just firm enough to be removed from the baking sheet without losing their shape. But try not to let them take on color.
Carefully transfer to a rack to cool. Macaroons are fragile when they emerge from the oven, but will set as they cool.
Recipe adapted from a 2000 issue of Bon Appetít. This is why I won't part with some of those old magazines, and don't even think you can make me.

*Note: If you don't have a pastry tip, don't fret. You could also drop these from a rounded tablespoon, and -with slightly damp fingers- shape them into cones or pyramids. Or, make mini pavlovas, and top them off with any fresh fruit in season, or sorbets. I topped mine with Papaya/Mango Sorbet . . . but, Coconut Ice Cream would be fantastic. OMG. WHY do I always have these AH-HAH moments after the fact?


Ze Mighty Zucchini

Have you been feverishly using up all your summer squash, or have you been too busy dropping them off on your neighbor's front lawn when they're not home? You know who you are.

I say, repent ye zinners, for the Zucchini Kibitzer is at hand.
I'm here to share with you a way to transform your plain and prolific squash into something so delectable, so healthy and so incredibly easy, it'll have you doing cartwheels in the middle of your kitchen.
(Btw, doesn't it irk the tar out of you when people hyperbole their recipes, as if theirs was the very best, and you'd be lucky to find anything better?
Well, you might think I'm guilty of the same . . . and you would be right. But it's not annoying when I do it).

So, will you promise you'll stop relinquishing your zucchini to the unappreciative masses?

I see. You're an incurable giver. Then make these thin pancakes, and share them with your neighbors (or anyone you're considering asking a big favor from). You can thank me later. But no hugging, that would be weird.

These are thin pancakes, not like crêpes, but which can still be rolled or folded, and are delicious filled with double cream Brie, and, just as wonderful filled with crabmeat.

Thin Zucchini Pancakes

2 cups grated zucchini
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons melted butter (more for greasing the pan)
¾ cup AP flour
1½ tablespoons water
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Black Pepper & Salt to taste *
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Serve with:

6½ ounces double cream Brie
roasted tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Or stuff with crabmeat, recipe follows

Preheat a frying pan over medium heat. Combine all pancake ingredients in a bowl, except for the water. Mix until smooth, then add enough water to make a rather thin batter (you shouldn't need more than 1 to 1½ tablespoons water). Mix until just combined.
For 6-inch pancakes, add about 1/3 cup of batter to greased pan and cook 1-2 minutes per side.

Serve with double cream Brie, or your favorite melting cheese (Gruyere or Fontina would also be nice), roasted tomatoes and chives.

*I add 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, and find it salty enough for me, but adjust to your taste.

Crabmeat Stuffing

8 ounces fresh cooked crabmeat
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together gently. If not using right away, keep the crab mixture refrigerated and bring to room temperature before you're ready to fill the zucchini pancakes. Enjoy.


Autumn. My Favorite Season.

Summer's almost over, and not fast enough for me, I might add.

It is time to gather my troops by the fire, serve big mugs of hot cocoa, roast marshmallows and confabulate about the day's events, until we go into a sugar coma. Yeh. Brought to you by a chick born on the Pearl of the Caribbean.

So, are you as excited as I am to welcome Fall? Is that scattered applause I hear?
C'mon nay sayers! It's not like I'm asking you to throw yourself on top of a grenade. I'm merely suggesting you give grilled-marked foods a day off, and dust off your stove instead.

Here's a treat (made with 90% natural ingredients, and 10% what-you-don't-know-can't-hurt-you). It's a delicious way to wrap yourself in the warmth of an autumnal dessert, while giving your forsaken oven a jump-start. Abuse as directed.

Honey Baked Apples

3 Golden Delicious apples
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup dry vermouth
3 small sweet apples(Rome or McIntosh; about ¾ pound total)
½ cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons honey
Grated zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon cinnamon
coarse salt
Crème anglaise, optional (recipe follows)

Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven, and preheat oven to 350°F.
Slice the Golden Delicious apples in half* through the equator and scoop out the core with a melon baller. Put the apple halves in a baking dish, cut side up, and brush with melted butter.. Pour the vermouth into the dish and bake the apples for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the sweet apples and grate them on a box grater onto a kitchen towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze over the sink (or do it over a cup, and drink up), getting some of the juice out of the apples. Drop grated apples into a bowl, and add the cream, yolk, honey, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Mound apple filling onto the Golden Delicious apples and bake for 60 minutes, basting several times, until the apples are tender (or when a knife goes through the apple with little effort) and filling is golden brown.
Let cool 5 minutes before serving with the Crème anglaise, if using. Btw, the bee is sugarpaste with gelatin wings. Easy enough for anyone to make.

*Note: I used 4 Golden Delicious, as there was enough filling for all 4. I also sliced the tops off each apple (picture above) instead of cutting them through the equator.

Honey Crème Anglaise

½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
2 large egg yolks
¼ cup honey

Have ready a bowl filled with ice, and set a smaller bowl and a strainer on the ice.
In a small saucepan pour in the cream and milk. Bring to a simmer. In another bowl whisk the yolks and honey until light. When the cream is simmering, pour it in a steady stream into the yolks, whisking while you pour. Whisk for about 30 seconds, and return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat, until the cream thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Strain the sauce into the bowl set over ice. Allow to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Serve the sauce right away, or refrigerate for 24 hours.
Adapted from Roy Finamore's Tasty.