Sara Forte didn’t set out to write a cookbook. After working on an organic farm in college, and interning at a bed-and-breakfast in Italy, her food blog, Sprouted Kitchen, was a way for the twentysomething Dana Point resident to document a growing interest in cooking. Husband Hugh, a photographer whose artistic food shots illustrate the blog, jump-started the project in 2009 by surprising Sara with the domain name and website. Recognition in the crowded food-blog world was quick—by 2011, Sprouted Kitchen was a finalist in Saveur’s food blog awards. Interest from publishers followed, and “The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods” (Ten Speed Press, $25) came out in August. Hugh's photos accompany Sara's recipes and text, and the blog continues, as well.
The recipes in “The Sprouted Kitchen” have a purity and cleanness that’s not always present in whole-foods cooking. Whole foods, unprocessed, low-on-the-food chain ingredients like whole grains and natural oils, can quickly turn to stodge, without careful cooking—exactly the sort of thing that gave “health food” a dubious reputation in the past. Forte’s dishes are modern and light. Moreover, she insists on practicality. Her own life provides plenty of motivation for a real-world approach—in addition to writing and developing recipes, she moonlights as a crew member at a South-O.C. Trader Joe’s.
Her recipes are indeed practical—most ingredients can be found at the aforementioned Trader Joe’s—and reflect what’s new in whole-foods cooking, such as the emphasis on vegetables (though this isn’t a vegetarian book per se) and the growing popularity of coconut oil. Coconut is clearly a favorite of Forte’s, and shows up in both sweets and savories. Leeks is another, including a simple, lightened-up version of a classic sauté she serves with soft-scrambled eggs. A triple-threat coconut recipe for an unusual loaf cake—with coconut oil, shredded unsweetened, and coconut milk—follows. Coconut is already in my Top 5, so I was immediately attracted to the idea of coconut flavor-layering, and I just loved this loaf.
The Sprouted Kitchen’s Coconut Loaf
The coconut flavor of this loaf is pretty subtle even though it contains three different coconut-based ingredients. Fresh out of the oven, this loaf is fairly crumbly. As it rests, it holds together better, and a slice will stand up well to toasting.—Sara Forte
¼ cup melted coconut oil, plus more for pan
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup turbinado or raw sugar
¾ cup unbleached all-purposed flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour, regular or pastry
½ teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1-½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 (13-½ ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, or more as needed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2-inch loaf pan with thin coat of coconut oil.
Spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until just golden brown, about 4 minutes. Watch carefully, it can burn quickly. Set aside ½ cup for topping.
In mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups toasted coconut and turbinado sugar. Add flours, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir to combine. In another bowl, whisk eggs and add 1 cup of coconut milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. Gently stir wet mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into loaf pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan a few minutes before turning out onto rack to cool completely.
While loaf is cooling, combine ¼ cup remaining coconut milk with powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Add more sugar or coconut milk to achieve desired consistency. (You won’t use entire can of coconut milk.) Pour glaze over cooled cake and sprinkle with reserved toasted coconut.
Reprinted with permission from “The Sprouted Kitchen” by Sara Forte, copyright (c) 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.