The first time I saw a coconut being cracked open, I was in Nicaragua with my parents and little brother, visiting my relatives. Only 10 years old at the time, I watched a young man hold a coconut in his bare hand while striking it with a machete with the other hand. I cringed at the sight, thinking he was going to chop his own hand off, but he expertly cracked the coconut with no incident. If you have been cracking coconuts all your life, I suppose the machete technique may seem like no big deal. I prefer to play it a little safer. Below is a low-risk technique for cutting open a young coconut with a chef knife. It may not be a show stopper, but it certainly gets the job done. As always, when using knives, mind your fingers and take care. Slow and easy. – Chef Lizette Marx, N.C., Flavors of Health
1. Place the coconut on its side and carefully shave the husk away from the top portion of the coconut until the shell is exposed.
2. While holding the coconut on its side, firmly strike and puncture the shell with the back edge portion (the hell) of your knife. The blade may be lodged inside the shell slightly but this is okay; use it to your advantage to rock the handle of your knife back and forth to pry the shell open. A gentler approach for your knife (and perhaps less threatening) is to use the blunt side of the chef knife (not the sharp side) to firmly strike the shell several times until the coconut cracks and leaves a gap large enough to open like a lid. If the coconut refuses to crack easily, rotate it slightly and strike it again. Keep doing this until the shell cracks.
3. Drain the coconut water into a glass pitcher or bowl. If the water is clear and has a clean sweet aroma, it is ready to enjoy. If the coconut water is a light pink tinge, it is spoiled and should be discarded.
4. After the coconut water is drained from its shell, use the back of a spoon or a firm, narrow spatula to scoop out the coconut meat.
1 coconut yields approximately 1 1/2 cups of liquid and 1/2 cup of meat.
Coco Cacao Fiesta Smoothie
Serves 4 to 6
Fresh young coconut is cool and refreshing and the cocoa nibs and cinnamon make this smoothie a sensational treat.
2 cups coconut water from young coconuts (or use store-bought, unsweetened coconut water)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup fresh chopped coconut meat, discolored pieces removed, or 1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup flax seeds ground into a meal
1 tsp maple syrup
2 Tbs raw cocoa nibs
1. Open a fresh coconut and pour the water into a glass. Remove tender coconut meat with a flexible rubber spatula or a spoon. Measure 2 cups coconut water and 1/2 cup coconut meat.
2. In a blender, combine coconut water and meat, almond milk. cinnamon, and maple syrup. Puree until very smooth. For a colder smoothie, add 4 ice cubes and blend until ice is thoroughly crushed.
3. Add cocoa nibs and blend again with just one or two quick pulses to retain the crunchy “chocolate chip” texture of the nibs. Serve with a sprinkle of cocoa nibs for garnish.
– Dr. Ed Bauman and Chef Lizette Marx, N.C., Flavors of Health