Coconut has been enjoying some serious time in the spotlight these days and I'm all for it. My parents were born in Sri Lanka, which is prime coconut-eating territory. Coconut appears in some form in basically every dish the island has to offer. Literally every one. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Not to mention, the spoons are made of coconut shells, the floor is cleaned with brooms made from coconut fibers, the mats underfoot are woven coconut husks, the ubiquitous, brutally strong liquor is fermented coconut sap, and if you’re my dapper grandfather, your hair is slicked back with coconut oil. (I could go on.) When I was a kid, despite the fact that my family was pretty into convenience products, my mom made coconut milk the old-fashioned way. I guess they were just a little bit fresher off that boat.
My dad would split the nut and then, using a nifty coconut grater that attached to the counter top, I’d scrape out all of the white meat. Next mom would pour warm water into the coconut shavings and squeeze out the milk. The first pressing is the thick cream but she would squeeze the meat a couple more times to get thinner milk. When making a tasty Sri Lankan curry, the second and third pressings are used for cooking and the super-rich, super-creamy first pressing is added at the end. It’s like finishing a sauce with butter. Butter on a beach vacation.
Sounds pretty dreamy but who actually has time for all of that? In reality I haven’t seen my mom do this in over 25 years. These days she buys nice and convenient dehydrated coconut milk for the curries. (Still delicious, I assure you.)
Ok. Let’s get to the ice cream. Strawberries are hanging on in the markets and now is the time to indulge. Quick! I was lucky enough to score a lovely bounty leftover from a shoot at work and since it has been hotter than Hades in the city lately, ice cream just seemed right. In a perfect world I would have squeezed out some fresh coconut milk for this ice cream. I bet that would have been stellar. But let’s be real. We are not in my grandparents’ village (although that would be nice) and we’ve all got stuff to do.
Vegan Coconut Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes about a pint
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk, divided
11/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound strawberries, hulled, halved, and pureed
1. In a small pot, whisk together 1/2 cup coconut milk and cornstarch. Add remaining coconut milk, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer over medium, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Let cool.
2. Whisk together coconut milk mixture and strawberry puree and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours.
3. Freeze coconut mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to freezer-safe container and freeze until firm.