Coconut Beef Patties

I’m in a coconut state of mind. (That would make a great lyric, wouldn’t it?)

I pulled up the list of all the drafts of yet-unpublished posts for this blog, and I saw that there were five recipes that featured coconut. I’m not sure how that happened. Don’t get me wrong, I really like coconut, but it’s not the first thing I go for on a menu. I’ll blame (or thank) the dead zone. This period we are in when it’s not winter and it’s not spring. When I avoid going to the farmers’ market because it makes me sad to see all those withered apples and dried up squashes (though it’s probably when the farmers need me to buy their things the most, now that I think about it). So I turn to things that are without season. Like dried beans and grains and shredded coconut that’s always available at the store.


I also realized that I’ve neglected the Appetizers section of this blog. It’s not an easy section to fill. Most of the time, I’m cooking for just the two of us, so there’s no appetizer involved. I have to wait until I’m cooking for company to bring out my list of appetizer recipes.

For this recipe, I reached out to a cookbook I have had for probably close to 15 years. I used it a lot when I first bought it back in the 90s but then it got buried somewhere in the back of the bookcase.


It’s a great cookbook on Indonesian food called Taste of Indonesia: Over 70 Aromatic Dishes from the Spice Islands of Bali, Java Sumatra and Madura by Sallie Morris. It has big, beautiful photographs and recipes that are not hard to make, though they do sometimes require searching for some exotic ingredients like galangal or pandan. This recipe for coconut beef patties, however, is easy to make with things you probably already have in your pantry.


The patties are lightly spiced with coriander and cumin and they carry a distinct coconut flavor. They remain, however, steadfastly meaty. When you serve them, make sure you provide lime wedges for your guests to squeeze over them. They need the acid. Or if you want to go a step further, serve them with a small bowl of Thai chili vinaigrette to dip the patties in. Just call it Thai-Indonesian fusion.



Coconut Beef Patties – Adapted from Taste of Indonesia: Over 70 Aromatic Dishes from the Spice Islands of Bali, Java Sumatra and Madura

Makes 10-12 patties


4oz shredded coconut, soaked in 6 tablespoons of boiling water
12oz ground beef
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-2 tablespoons all purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying
lime wedges to serve


In a small bowl, mix together the coriander, cumin, salt, and garlic into a paste. Add to the soaked coconut and mix to combine. Add coconut mixture and egg to beef and use your hands to combine.

Divide the meat mixture into 10-12 even sized portions and form them into patties about 2″ in diameter and ½” thick. Dust both sides of patties with flour.

Put enough oil in deep sauté pan to come to about ½” deep. Heat oil over medium high heat to about 350° F. Fry patties in batches for about 3 minutes on each side, adjusting heat to maintain oil temperature, until cooked through and both sides are golden brown. Do not crowd patties in the pan.

Serve immediately with lime wedges to squeeze over.

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup


So do we have a final verdict on coconut? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Is it good for you or does it clog your arteries? It seems like coconut is one of those foods that somehow managed to do a complete one-eighty a few years ago. I remember the warnings about how it was full of saturated fat, second only to palm oil, and how it should be completely avoided. Then, coconut hired the best PR person in the world and became the darling of the health nut world.


I choose to believe that it’s good for you, for no other reason than my total love for anything coconut. I’ve only recently experimented with coconut oil as a substitute for butter (with some good results) but I’ve been using coconut milk for years. And given that it’s a main ingredient in Thai cuisine, I could never give it up. Besides, who can resist a frosted, coconut cake?


So, when Bon Appétit published a recipe for Tom Kha Gai, a chicken coconut soup, that seemed simple to make and promised to be delicious, I quickly bookmarked it and prepared it at the first chance I got. Unfortunately, it was terrible. The broth was bland, the chicken was tough, and there was a taste of chicken fat permeating everything that made it hard to eat.


So, much like I did with the Caramel Garlic Chicken recipe, I set out to improve this one as well. I got rid of the chicken and used shrimp. I infused the broth with shrimp shells and let it simmer longer than the original recipe. And to add both flavor and substance to the dish, I added some carrots and potatoes, similar to what you’d get in a massaman curry.

I am proud to say that the results were lip-smacking good. Steve almost licked his bowl clean. And yes, the recipe uses coconut milk. Try it. I hear it’s good for you.


Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup – Inspired by the recipe for Tom Kha Gai in Bon Appétit

Makes 2-3 servings


1 1” piece ginger, peeled
5 kaffir lime leaves (or 1/2 Tbsp. lime zest and 2 Tbsp lime juice)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb shell-on raw shrimp (16-20 count)
4 oz. shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1/4″ slices
3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 small carrot, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4″ slices
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tsp. sugar
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed
juice of half a lime
lime wedges (for serving)
Chili oil, sriracha, fresh cilantro (optional)


Remove the shells from the shrimp and reserve half of the shells (discard the other half of the shells). Using the back of a knife, smash lemongrass and ginger; cut lemongrass into 4” pieces. Bring lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, reserved shrimp shells, and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 13–15 minutes. Strain broth and return to saucepan; discard solids.

Add mushrooms, potatoes, and carrot and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer briskly until potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Add shrimp and continue to simmer until shrimp have turned pink and are cooked, about another 3-4 minutes. Mix in coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar and gently reheat soup. Add juice of half a lime and stir (omit this if you used lime juice instead of kaffir lime leaves).

Divide soup among bowls. Serve with lime wedges. If you want, you can also top soup with chili oil, sriracha sauce, or cilantro.


Roasted Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup


Sometime in early February, there will come a day when I think “If I have another butternut/acorn/spaghetti/whatever squash soup/gratin/side dish I will barf.” But that day is at least two months away. Right now, it’s the honeymoon period for me and winter squash.


What a perfect food they are. Large and substantial, they keep for long periods of time without the need for refrigeration. They are nutritious and oh so flexible. They can be roasted, boiled, mashed, sliced, blended, you name it. And to top it all, they are sweet, with natural sugars that caramelize under a blast of heat, adding notes of things tropical, far from the cold winters where they reside.


Needless to say, everyone and their mother (literally) has a recipe for butternut squash soup. But I wanted to create my own. I chose to pair butternut squash, roasted at high heat to get some nice caramelization, with coconut, admittedly a classic pairing. I kept things simple and used a selection of mostly Thai flavors. The soup lets the squash shine but it with the unmistakable background of lime and ginger and fish sauce.

The soup is lovely as is, but I’ve found that it really comes alive with a few drops of hot sauce sprinkled on top. I’ve been using Louisiana hot sauce with great success. To make it more substantial, you can add some sautéed shrimp like in the photos here. Or, as I did last weekend, place a small mount of Trader Joe’s Dried Kimchi in the center of each bowl of soup. The combination was phenomenal.


Roasted Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup

Serves 3-4 as appetizer


1 1/2 lbs (650 gr) peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 red thai chili pepper, roughly chopped (optional)
Hot sauce or chili oil (optional)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place butternut squash cubes in large bowl, add oil, and mix well with your hands. Place on large baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, turning once or twice, until the edges of the squash cubes begging to turn brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Place roasted butternut squash and the remaining ingredients (except the chili oil or hot sauce) in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour in a medium pot and heat over medium heat. If the soup is too thick, add some more stock, one tablespoon at a time to thin it out.

Serve hot with some hot sauce or chili oil if you like.

Quick Dairy-Free Coconut Saffron Ice Cream

Last week, I cooked a three course dinner that was both gluten-free and dairy-free because one of our friends who joined us is allergic to both. Given those constraints, I started thinking about what to make for this dinner a few weeks in advance. I quickly realized that cooking gluten-free and dairy-free is manageable for savory dishes but when you get to dessert, it becomes a serious challenge.


A challenge I absolutely loved (Top Chef here I come!). Once I decided on the appetizer (pea soup) and the main dish (roast chicken with potatoes and carrots), I started to go over my recipes for desserts. I didn’t want to go the easy way by making a fruit sorbet and call it a day. I wanted to make a dessert that screamed gluten and dairy but without having either of them.

So I chose to make bread pudding, served with ice cream. Yep, I went there.


For the bread pudding, I used my go-to recipe (which I’ll share soon) and substituted regular bread for gluten-free croutons that I bought. I also replaced whole milk with coconut milk. The end result was delicious. The ice cream, however, was more of a challenge. I decided to stick with the coconut theme and I found a recipe by David Lebovitz for a quick coconut saffron ice cream that seemed promising. However, it used heavy cream. So, I decided to replace heavy cream with cream of coconut, which is really coconut milk with lots of sugar and a few thickeners (different types of gum) that turn it into a thick, sweet concoction that’s the basic ingredient in Pina Coladas.


So, I opened a can of coconut milk and a can of cream of coconut, dumped them in a pot, and heated them gently until all the solids melted and it became a smooth liquid. I added a pinch of salt and a bigger pinch of saffron, heated it a little longer to let the saffron steep, chilled it in the fridge, and froze it in my ice cream maker.

I was skeptical on what the final product would be like, especially in terms of consistency. I expected a solid block on ice when I took it out of the freezer the next day. I was amazed when it turned out to be a beautiful, creamy ice cream that you could scoop with a spoon. The saffron had given it a golden yellow color that intensified the illusion that this ice cream was made with actual cream and egg yolks.

The final verdict on the whole dessert? Let’s just say that not a crumb of bread pudding or drop of ice cream was left over in everyone’s bowls.


Quick Dairy-Free Coconut Saffron Ice Cream

If you don’t have saffron, or if you don’t like it, you can omit it. Though I haven’t tried them, other options for additions are lime zest, chopped dried pineapple or ginger, or chocolate pieces. For all of these alternative options, add them to the ice cream right when it’s finished being churned in the ice cream maker.

1 15oz can of coconut milk, unsweetened
1 15oz can of cream of coconut (such as Goya or Coco Lopez)
pinch of salt
hefty pinch of saffron threads (about half a teaspoon)

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk and the cream of coconut. The cream of coconut is usually separated in the can, with the solid cream on top and the liquid syrup in the bottom. Add the entire contents of the can to the saucepan.

Heat gently over medium heat, stirring frequently until the cream of coconut solids melt and everything becomes a smooth liquid.

Add the salt and saffron and continue to heat gently for 2-3 minutes. The longer you steep the saffron, the deeper the saffron taste of your ice cream will be.

Remove from heat and chill in the refrigerator. Once the mixture is chilled, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.