It can be a rewarding exercise to take a moment to review your pantry-shelf staples and the way you use them. Who knows what "Aha!" moments will come?
Eventually, the open-minded cook is going to either find a new staple, or figure out a tasty new way to use one that's already a mainstay.
A feature in the April issue of Real Simple magazine suggests starting with coconut milk. Just open a can to add an exotic splash to corn chowder, ginger chicken, rice custard and more, the message goes.
The recipe for the Thai chicken with ginger is a winner that takes only about half an hour. If you're in the mood for something other than chicken, the editors say, you can use shrimp or sirloin instead.
Tip: Coconut milk sometimes separates into a thick layer of coconut cream atop a watery liquid. To recombine the two, shake the can before opening it. If necessary, pour the contents into a bowl and break up any large chunks with a spoon.
Yield: 4 servings
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed
3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 small eggplant, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick crosswise
Two 13.5-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1/2-inch thick
2 cups cooked white rice
Place the cilantro, jalapenos, ginger and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and eggplant and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a simmer. Add the reserved cilantro mixture, the remaining salt, and the chicken. Simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens slightly, about 7 minutes. Serve over the rice.