Thursday, August 27, 2009

Recipe #13: Small chop: corn and coconut snack

We've been enjoying wonderful sweet corn lately from our local CSA (community supported agriculture) group, Plowshare Produce. Yesterday I prepared a quick and simple, but popular snack (in Ghana known as "small chop"). While North American sweet corn is much softer and sweeter than Ghana's corn, and thus cooks much more quickly, sweet corn can easily be substituted to make what proves to be a delicate and complementary combination of flavors and crunchy and chewy textures, and a hearty snack.

First, prepare a fresh coconut. Actually, the ones usually seen in supermarkets here are the hard, dried ones with a hairy brown covering. The really fresh ones (not the ones we want today) are green on the outside. When shopping for coconuts, I always shake them first to find one that seems full of liquid. If you haven't recently opened a coconut, I recommend some newspapers spread out on the floor under the coconut, a good-sized glass, cup, or bowl, a hammer and an ice pick or sharp object like a screw driver or clean nail, a knife and/or a vegetable peeler.

Hold the ice pick, or screwdriver over one of the 3 "eyes" in one end of the coconut, and use the hammer to make a hole there. Repeat for the other 2 eyes and then invert the coconut over the cup or bowl and drain out the liquid, shaking it if necessary to get all the coconut water out. If the coconut is fresh, this liquid will be very refreshing, and can be drunk by itself, poured into tropical fruit salads, etc.

Next, take the hammer and start whacking the coconut (make sure no one is standing nearby, and be careful of flying bits of coconut shells) until it breaks apart into pieces. Carefully use the knife to pry the coconut away from the hard brown shell. Then use the knife/vegetable peeler to peel off the thin brown coating on the back of the coconut, leaving only the white pieces. Once you can get past the idea that coconut has to be flaked and coated with sugar, this is a delightful combination. Rinse the coconut and cut it into slices or cubes.

To prepare the corn, boil the corn cobs in salted water, grill them over an open fire, or cook them in the microwave. Serve pieces of corn and coconut together. This is a great snack on a hot summer afternoon or evening, especially when accompanied by an ice-cold beverage of your choice, like ginger beer, bissap, puha, or beer.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Kakum and Fresh Raw Cocoa

For years I've wanted to visit Kakum National Park in Ghana to walk its rope bridges and get a birds'-eye view of the rain forest. It's billed as only one of four "canopy" (above the rainforest) walks in the world, and the only in Africa. The trouble is, I guess, I never go to Ghana as a tourist.

This time, we managed to get to Cape Coast before our 6 1/2 months was up in mid-July, and as usual I enjoyed the wonderful fresh fish, but this time we traveled the 12 or so miles to Kakum. At the end of our tree-top walk, as we descended to the entrance of the park, we stopped to enjoy juice and creamy pulp from some fresh coconuts.

Also, I tasted my first fresh raw cocoa fruit, straight from the pod. We sucked the sweet white pulp from the seeds. The sellers said you can eat the bitter seeds, too (where the chocolate comes from), but others told me to just spit them out, which was my preference. If you're in Ghana, I recommend a trip to Kakum if possible.

I'm now back in central Pennsylvania, but have many stories from our time in Brazil and Ghana this past year to share. I'll soon post about a delightful experience tasting Brazil in Ghana!

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