It’s finally time to ditch the layers, pack away the clunky snow boots and bring on the backyard fun. Outdoor celebrations are hardly scarce at this time. From Memorial Day and July 4th, to Shavuot and late-night Havdalah gatherings, to birthdays and other days ending in “y,” we’re all finding reasons to spend as much time outside as possible. Who can blame us?
Like every good Jewish gathering, these usually revolve around food. And when kids are involved, dessert must play a central role. But the growing laundry list of “can’t-haves” can become daunting. Recently I was asked to bring dessert—a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free dessert. Oh, and can it please be rich, decadent and delicious, too?
No problem. Everyone loves ice cream. But the pareve store-bought ice cream substitutes all taste gummy and overly sweet. So I set off to create a pareve, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free “ice cream” that would satisfy a crowd of discriminatory dessert lovers.
Coconut milk to the rescue! Coconut milk is made from coconut meat and water—don’t confuse it with lower-calorie coconut water. Rich, thick and more like cream than milk, coconut milk serves as a perfect pareve substitute for dairy heavy cream.
The Coconut Research Center, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating about the benefits of coconut, notes that coconut is considered a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. The center notes that coconut palm is so highly valued by Pacific Islanders as a food source and a medicine that they call it “the tree of life.” Or as we, in the Jewish community, call it: etz chaim!