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coconutmilk.jpgThe three ingredients that I always have in my refrigerator are butter, eggs, and heavy cream. Butter and eggs have a long shelf-life, but sometimes I run out of the more perishable heavy cream. What to do? My ace in the hole is a supply of canned coconut milk in the pantry.

Coconut milk (which contains no dairy) gives food a creamy, luscious taste. Of course, coconut milk is essential in Thai curries, but it is also wonderful in many other cuisines. I have made cakes with coconut milk, coconut milk custards, and ice creams. Plus, I’ve used coconut milk in cooking rice, sweet potatoes, and soups.

Unsweetened coconut milk is not Coco Lopez, which is the very sweet coconut cream used in pina coladas.

When opening the can of coconut milk, note that the milk has separated. Frequently in cooking Thai food, just the thick, fat coconut cream is used. For general cooking, whisk the contents very well to combine before using.

Here is a traditional creamy tomato soup, but made with coconut milk instead of cream. Yes, this soup is delicious with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tomato Soup

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 cups tomatoes (at this time of year, I use canned)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Heat the oil on medium heat and saute the onion and celery for about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the sherry. Add the stock. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Puree in a food processor and strain using a passoire. Return the soup to the stove and stir in the coconut milk.