Since our visit to Trinidad and Tobago in January, coocoo now claims a regular spot in our menu rotation. This Trini version of polenta is traditionally served as a starchy side with fish. I enjoyed it in Tobago as a gluten-free alternative to the dumplin’ in the dish crab and dumplin’, drenched in flavorful curry. Coocoo also makes a surprisingly refreshing snack food when cut into bite-sized squares and served cold with a fizzy cocktail on a sultry day.
You can easily (and deliciously) dress coocoo up with garlic and onion, herbs such as chives and thyme, or spices such as cumin. Consider this recipe a blank slate, as basic as coocoo gets. Personally, I love its simplicity. I’m still discovering all the different dishes it pairs well with in my ongoing Trini-fusion culinary experiments.
1 cup okra, fresh or frozen, coarsely chopped
1 (15-oz.) can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup quick-cooking polenta*
1 tsp salt
*If you’re on an anti-inflammatory diet, make sure to use cornmeal ground from non-GMO corn, and avoid products that are “enriched and degerminated” or which contain additives or preservatives.
Grease a loaf pan, baking dish, or medium-sized (about 4-cup capacity) bowl with coconut oil. Set aside.
Bring the coconut milk, water, and okra to a simmer in a 2-quart pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the okra is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes, lowering the heat if necessary to keep the mixture at a simmer. Slowly whisk in the polenta and salt, being careful not to allow lumps to form. Lower the heat to low and beat constantly while cooking for about 5 minutes, until mixture clings together in a ball and forms stiff peaks when spoon is lifted.
Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and smooth the top with a spatula (grease the spatula with coconut oil if the cornmeal mixture sticks to it). Let cool, uncovered, for at least 10 to 15 minutes before unmolding, slicing, and serving.
If preparing ahead of time, cool to room temperature, cover, and store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or reheat before serving.