If I had to associate a single flavor with Melissa Clark — not only with her recipes, but also with her contagiously sunny disposition — it would be lemon. It’s not a Melissa Clark recipe without it. But if I had to associate a second flavor with Melissa — not only with her recipes, but also with her fresh, sweet temperament — it would be coconut.
She loves it in brownies, in layer cakes, in cornbread and in crispy puff-pastry twists. Melissa will be the first to tell you she has a sweet tooth. And for her, coconut’s appeal lies in its ability to add soft sweetness to savory dishes, too.
Take one of her latest recipes, for example: Her vegan coconut black bean soup gets a mellow sweetness from, you guessed it, unsweetened coconut milk. It’s an ingredient that should be a staple in your pantry if it isn’t already, especially if you’re interested in taking a recipe from vegetarian to vegan.
“The creamy yet dairy-free foundation of so many dishes, it adds its subtly sweet flavor and richness to countless curries and stews, soups and pilafs, and makes for a stunning hot chocolate with an inimitable perfume,” Melissa wrote last week.
But coconut milk is not the only coconut product with the power to transform your meatless cooking. Coconut cream adds body to the dressing in Yewande Komolafe’s roasted vegetable salad; shredded coconut creates a crunchy exterior around Ali Slagle’s crispy coconut tempeh, and adds its unmistakable aroma and texture to Hetty McKinnon’s crispy coconut rice with tofu; and thicker toasted coconut flakes make the perfect garnish for Ali’s one-pot turmeric coconut rice and her coconut creamed kale.
I can’t yet match Melissa’s unwavering coconut commitment — it’s one of the few flavors I’m still learning to love. But recipes like her coconut curry sweet potato soup, creamy from coconut milk and garnished with crisp coconut flakes, make it easy to go all in on coconut.