Janet Fletcher of the SF Chronicle got seriously obsessed with coconuts after vacationing in South India, where almost every dish she ate contained fresh grated coconut or coconut milk. She says, "For years, I have passed fresh coconuts by, not sure even how to crack one open or what to do with it if I did. But with the help of some local experts, I'm making up for lost time."
High in saturated fat, nutritionists have been warning us off of coconuts for years—the University of California's even says it has "has no redeeming vitamin or mineral assets". But, she says, "Malaysians, Thais, Indians and Indonesians -- all major coconut eaters -- don't even come close to our rate of obesity, and Americans are far more likely to die of heart disease than Malaysians or Thais are. If coconut were really so deadly, [her friend David] King suggests, wouldn't these people be sicker than we are?" And anyway, coconuts are known to raise HDL, a.k.a. the good kind of cholesterol, more than other kinds of fats so it's worth another look. In the meantime, let's eat it! Fletcher includes four recipes at the end of her piece, including one for Green Curry Chicken, one of my very favorite things to eat in the summer. The curry has a lot of ingredients, but comes out very delicate but decidedly spicy; it's a great introduction for people who haven't had a lot of Indian or Southeast Asian food, or who are hesitant to eat coconut in a savoury dish.