To finish my series on Indian inspired burgers, I am incorporating the flavors of the Malabar Coast, the plain along the coast of Kerala on the Arabian Sea. This is the land of my husband’s ancestors so the flavors of the food here have been imbedded into his DNA.

To make Malabar Burgers, I created a Malabar Masala that I use to flavor the burgers. It is based on a spice mixture from Kerala. An authentic Malabar Masala is comprised of whole spices that are roasted to bring out their flavor then ground before it is used. I simplified it to use pre-ground spices and added caramelized red onion, dried red chiles and finely chopped coconut to enhance the flavors. It seems everything in Kerala has coconut and chiles in it, so why not add them to burgers.

Malabar Burger

With the flavors of the Malabar Coast these tasty burgers are flavored with Malabar Masala spices then topped with tangy Cabbage Slaw. They are served on flaky Malabar layered parathas.

Once the Malabar Masala is ready I simply combine it with the ground beef and form the patties. Letting the patties rest before cooking allows the flavor of the Masala to permeate the meat.

To add contrast in flavor, color and texture, I top the burgers with a tangy Cabbage Slaw. It gets a slight punch from the minced green chile. It is dressed with a simple yogurt, mayonnaise and vinegar sauce.

The Malabar Burgers are served on traditional Malabar parathas. They are made with white flour and layered, like those from South India on which I serve the Madras Burgers. Malabar parathas’ layers are formed by rolling out the dough as thinly as possible, forming layers by pleating it like a fan and then coiling the pleated rectangle into a circle. It is then rolled to flatten it. They are cooked on a tava like other Indian breads. The resulting paratha is light and flaky, almost like an Indian croissant. They have an absolutely heavenly flavor and are quite addictive!

The burgers are placed on the cooked Malabar parathas and topped with a generous amount of Cabbage Slaw. These burgers are very easy to make and everyone one will love the flavors of Kerala in a tasty summer dish.

Check out these other burger recipes as well:

Bombay Burgers

Goa Balchao Sliders

Madras Burgers

My Brussels Sprouts with Coconut recipe is based on a style of cooking in Kerala called thoran. It is a side dish made of finely chopped vegetables and gently seasoned while it is cooked. The most common thorans that I have eaten are made with finely chopped green beans or cabbage. Virtually any vegetable can be the main ingredient. I chose to use Brussels sprouts in this recipes simply because my kids and I like them.

Brussel Sprouts with Coconut

Brussels Sprouts with Coconut is based on a healthy and easy thoran recipe from Kerala. It is loaded with nutrition and flavor.

There is no sauce or curry in a thoran so it is usually eaten with sambar, a thick lentil soup, and plain rice. The seasonings that are used in a thoran are mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chiles and turmeric but the most important ingredient beside the vegetable is coconut. It is coconut that identifies this recipe as a thoran.

Thorans are popular with those who are not familiar with Indian food or do not like curries and spicy hot food. The spices are heated in hot oil to bring out their flavor before the Brussels sprouts are added and cooked until they start to brown. Then the coconut is added and the dish is cooked until the vegetable is tender, or to taste. It is one of the easiest Indian recipes to make as well as one of the healthiest.

Chutneys are served at all Indian meals.

Chutneys made from many different ingredients are served at all Indian meals.



Since chutneys are very popular and pair so well with many different Indian recipes, I thought I would start the year with a few of my favorites as the Recipes of the Month. The Indian chutney recipes I selected are:

 

 

These are all easy to make and versatile to use. Try them with salads, chicken, lentils and soups. Enjoy!


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Many south Indian recipes use coconut milk to make a curry rich and thick. Popular in Kerala, the land of coconuts, it gives the signature delicious taste to their cuisine. I had grown up with the belief that eating coconut is bad for you because it was high in bad fats and was full of calories.  Recently I have been seeing more coconut milk being sold in health food stores and chain groceries because coconut milk is being substituted in recipes by vegetarians who do not consume animal products and by those who are lactose intolerant. In discussions with some of my Indian friends and family, I began to question my lifelong assumption.

 

Coconut Milk and Heavy Cream

 

1 cup Coconut Milk Heavy Cream
552 calories 414 calories
Fat 57g 44g
Saturated Fat 51g 28g
Cholesterol 0mg 164mg
Fiber 5g 9g
Protein 5g 2g

 source: nutritiondata.self.com

 

 can of coconut milkYes, coconut milk has 33% more calories and 30% more fat than heavy cream. It even has a whopping 82% more saturated fat. On the positive side, it has no cholesterol and more protein. Experts will argue that coconut milk’s saturated fat is plant based rather than from animals so it is not as unhealthy as cream.

 

My sources believe that coconut milk is superior because those who include it in their diets have lower cholesterol and incidence of heart disease. I think there is more to it. The question should be stated: Which do you prefer? Since the data are not that horribly different and both are high in calories and fat, the answer should be use whichever you like, but in moderation: use light cream, light coconut milk dilute your cream with milk, or dilute your coconut milk with water. The bottom line is use them in you Indian recipes but don’t go overboard.

 

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On our first day in Chennai, my husband and I walked around the area rather than take a car so we could take our time and check out the sights. One of our first stops was right around the corner from his parents’ flat. On Sardar Patel Road, we ran into three ladies selling flowers. In India, it is popular for women and girls to wear flowers in their hair. They do this partly for looks and partly for the scent. Since they were very inexpensive, we stopped and the ladies had a blast clipping a few strands of flowers in my hair. While I was facing the other way, there was a lot of laughing and giggling behind me. I think I provided them with their day’s entertainment. After I took their pictures, my husband and I continued our walk.

 

We walked a few blocks down to Grand Snacks, which in my father-in-law’s opinion is the best place to buy sweets. Here they sell vegetarian snacks like the curd rice and the Kozhi Paniyaram. Fresh and delicious, the menu is as good as the what ever else they sell.
 

An employee prepares Yogurt Rice at Grand Snacks in Chennai.

An employee prepares Yogurt Rice at Grand Snacks in Chennai.

 

Walking in the heat and sun made me thirsty so we purchased fresh coconuts from a vendor on the street. He picked out two good coconuts, cut off the top with his machete and inserted a straw. How easy is that? (Don’t try this at home.) Coconut water is a healthy alternative to soda and is much more refreshing. As an aside, on another day in T Nagar we tried the water from a red coconut. It is more delicious and sweeter than regular green coconut.
 

Nothing is as refreshing on a hot day as coconut water.

Nothing is as refreshing on a hot day as coconut water.

 

Before we turned the corner to go home, I had to stop at a large fruit stand attended by two parents and their cute little girl. The variety and quality of the items they had for sale was amazing. I picked a several pieces to eat for the next day’s breakfast because I couldn’t decide just what I wanted. The woman offered us fresh lychees that turned out to be, in my husband’s opinion, the best he had ever tasted. Of course, we added a bag of them to our order. I don’t know if you can see it here but every fruit stand we have visited in Chennai, whether someone just selling a few bushels of mangoes or a proprietor of a large stand like the one shown arranges all of their produce in an orderly and attractive fashion. If they have enough of an item, it is always arranged in a pyramid.
 

One of hundreds of fresh produce stands in Chennai.

One of hundreds of fresh produce stands in Chennai.

 

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Coconut tree right outside our door in Maui.

Coconut tree right outside our door in Maui.

During our recent Maui vacation my husband discovered that fresh coconuts were sold at the farmers’ market in Kahana just down the street from where we stayed. He was so excited by this that he would walk there early each morning to buy a fresh coconut still in its husk from a vendor who opens it with a machete. Armed with a straw and a large green coconut, he walks across the street to the beach to watch the sunrise. Every time I buy coconut in the store, I reserve the coconut water for him to drink. I always taste it to make sure the coconut is fresh.

 


Did you know that not all coconut water is the same? It isn’t. As a coconut matures its sweetness decreases. The sweetest stage occurs when it is about 40% ripe. It is known as tender coconut since the kernel is soft like jelly and can be eaten with a spoon. This is my husband’s favorite stage. When a coconut approaches 70% mature, they look full size. This is the stage at which he finds them in Maui. Not quite as sweet and the kernel has started to harden, he still finds these a treat. When a coconut is fully mature, the kernel has reached the hardness that is found in the grocery store. The water isn’t as sweet but it is still refreshing. The water in the red variety of tender coconuts that grows in his hometown in Kerala is even sweeter than the most common ones. The mature red coconut kernel is not used for cooking though.
 

 

Now that I’ve mentioned Kerala, this small state grows the most coconuts in the entire country of India, about half! India, on the other hand, ranks third in the world.

 

A boy on the street in Chennai selling coconuts.

A boy on the street in Chennai selling coconuts.

 

I have known for years that Indians love to drink coconut water, especially from tender coconuts. I saw people on the streets in Chennai, Kochi and Mumbai drinking it from bottles as well as husks. I suspect that if I asked a random person on the street what is the national drink of India, he would reply unhesitatingly, coconut water, of course!
 
 

A box of coconut water that can be purchased anywhere in India or the U.S.

A box of coconut water that can be purchased anywhere in India or the U.S.

In addition to health benefits of coconut milk in piña coladas. A bit of coconut water mixes nicely with vodka and juices, such as cranberry, lime or pomegranate. It can also be added to desserts for a rich taste. I have added a bit to cookies, puddings and ice cream before I freeze it.

 

The best thing about coconut water is you don’t have to break a coconut to get it. It is now available in bottles and small, individual serving juice boxes. The number of different brands and sizes that were available in my local Indian grocery surprised me. Once I noticed drink boxes of this refreshing drink, I started seeing it in every grocery store from Wal-Mart to Safeway. It looks like a new trend!

 

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Fresh coconut, both pieces and grated.

Fresh coconut, both pieces and grated.

 

Have you ever wondered how to open a coconut? Here’s the story…

Since my husband’s family is from Kerala, the land of coconuts, most of the recipes I prepare require grated or chopped coconut. In talking with some of my friends, I found that they were apprehensive about how to handle a coconut. Here is my process for opening a coconut:

  1. Poke a metal skewer into the eyes of the coconut. Usually only one eye is soft enough for the skewer to pierce through the husk.
  2. Pour the coconut water from the coconut into a bowl.
  3. Give the coconut one or two good whacks with a hammer to break it into several pieces. 
  4. Use a paring knife to cut pieces 1 to 2 inches wide in the coconut and use the knife to pry out the pieces.
  5. Cut off the brown skin with a knife or peeler.
  6. Grate or cut as needed.

Tips:

  • Break the coconut outside since it does make some dust.
  • I use coconut water to add flavor to dishes instead of water. My husband loves to drink it but since it is not cold, I pass on it.
  • I grate my coconut in my food processor to save the skin on my knuckles.
  • Fresh coconut will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.
  • I keep my grated coconut in the freezer and pull out just the amount I need at any time.

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With a high school senior at home, it seems I am always running off to do errands or attend school functions. I never have enough time to prepare all of the items I would like for dinner. I selected a very simple vegetable Green Beans with Coconut recipe that cooks in no time at all as recipe of the month for February. This is an adaptation of the recipe in Kachi’s Kitchen called Pacha Payru Upperi (literally translated from the Malayalam as Green Bean Side Dish.) By eliminating all of the chopping and reducing the cooking time, you can have a delicious green bean side dish without any fuss. This vegetarian green bean with coconut recipe has my son’s seal of approval.  Enjoy!
 

Green Beans with Coconut

Green Beans with Coconut

 

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The latest trend which I discovered in Chennai is the use of sugar from coconut trees rather than refined sugar because it has a lower glycemic index. It has the same number of calories but it has much more nutritional value with more vitamins and minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. It tastes slightly different with a more butterscotch flavor making food or drinks prepared with it taste richer (like using brown sugar) because it is not bleached like refined sugar. One more thing to note: since coconut trees produce at least twice as much sugar as sugarcane per acre, it has less impact on the earth.

I will look for it in my local grocery stores and let you know what I learn!

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I was always taught that using coconut oil and eating (a lot of) coconut was bad for your health because the oil was high in saturated fats which are bad for health.

Fresh coconut, both pieces and grated.

Fresh coconut, both pieces and grated.

Since I love the taste of coconuts, I was thrilled to hear that their saturated fats actually ARE healthy because they increase the ability of the body to absorb nutrients and may reduce cholesterol. They also contain lauric acid which has been shown to help fight viruses. In addition, they increase the production of ketones which are good for the brain. In fact, research is being done with coconut oil as a possible treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. 

Kerala cooking uses a lot of coconut in the food. From Coconut Chutney to Puttu, it is used on a daily basis. I am thrilled with this news and look forward to continued frequent use of coconut!

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