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Anne's Kitchen: Outside the box, with Asian flair


Anne Freeze



Recently I did a cooking demonstration for a local garden club and after that, hosted five friends for a long weekend. I ended up with odds and ends in my refrigerator and pantry and looked for ways to use them up. I had made a carrot and ginger soup using coconut milk and had several cans left. (As usual, I over-bought.) I have used it before to make soup, as well as substituting it for water when making rice. I have also made a red curry with shrimp once or twice. I love the creaminess of it and as it isn't dairy, it will freeze better in soups or other dishes than dairy cream will. 


Coconut milk is made from fresh shredded coconut that is simmered in water then strained to form a rich, creamy liquid. Do not use "lite" or light coconut milk as is has little coconut oil and little flavor. And do not get confused and buy coconut cream which is sweetened and only good for a tropical drink with an umbrella. Coconut water is the juice inside a fresh coconut and cannot be substituted for the milk product. Coconut milk in the can is available at most grocery stores on the Asian aisle, and certainly in any Asian food store. 


As I did some reading for this column I came across something that sounded so good as a dessert topping -- whipped coconut milk. I have not done this, but I'm picturing it on top of a flan or coconut pie. The recipe is below, along with a recipe for a breakfast idea, a soup and a curry dish. The shrimp curry is from my friend Nancie McDermott's cookbook, "Quick & Easy Thai." Nancie has written 10 (or more) cookbooks, including "Southern Soups & Stews," "Southern Cakes" and "Southern Pies" as well as several on various Asian cuisines. They make very nice gifts, especially when grouped together.  








1 can full-fat coconut milk 


1 tablespoon sugar or more, to taste (optional) 


1 teaspoon vanilla or more, to taste (optional) 


Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional) 




  • Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator and leave it there until well chilled.  


  • Open the can. There will be a firm waxy layer on top. Scoop out this firm layer. Stop as soon as you reach the water at the bottom of the can; don't include anything but the solid cream. You can use the water in a smoothie or just drink it plain. 


  • Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. 


  • Turn the beaters to high and whip the coconut cream for 3-5 minutes, until it becomes fluffy and light with soft peaks. Mix in sugar or vanilla if using. It should keep in the refrigerator for several days. 








    Serves 4 




    1 tablespoon olive oil 


    1 medium yellow onion, chopped 


    1 clove garlic, finely chopped 


    1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (peeled, if desired), cut into a 1/2-inch dice 


    3 cups corn (6 ears fresh or 16-ounces frozen) 


    1 13.5 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk 


    2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 


    1 teaspoon ground cumin 


    1 teaspoon ground coriander 


    Salt and black pepper 


    1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined 




  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. 


  • Add garlic, potatoes and corn and cook for 1 minute. 


  • Add the coconut milk, broth, cumin, coriander, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil. 


  • Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. 


  • Add shrimp and simmer until pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Ladle soup into individual bowls. 








    Serves 4 




    1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, thick top part mixed with watery base until combined 


    2 tablespoons goeng kua curry paste (check in an Asian supermarket) or red curry paste 


    1/2 cup water 


    2 tablespoons fish sauce 


    1 tablespoon sugar 


    1 cup drained canned pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple or bite-sized chunks fresh pineapple 


    6 wild lime leaves, quartered (optional) 


    1/4 pound large shrimp 


    1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, plus basil sprigs for garnish. 




  • In a medium skillet or saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the coconut milk over medium-high heat, stirring often, until thickened and fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  


  • Add the curry paste and cook a minute or two, pressing and stirring to dissolve it. Stir in remaining 1 cup coconut milk, the water, fish sauce, sugar, pineapple and lime leaves (if using), and bring to a gentle boil.  


  • Add shrimp and basil leaves and cook another minute or two, just until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with fresh basil sprigs and serve hot or warm. Serve with jasmine rice, rice noodles or angel hair pasta. 


    (Source: Nancie McDermott, "Quick & Easy Thai")



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