Tag Archives: basil

Cambodian Noodle Soup

photo 2-37

With the exception of my travels through the Balkans, I have yet to visit any metropolitan area where I didn’t stumble upon a pho shop.  With their steaming bowls of noodles, broth, and an endless variety of add-ins, these Thai noodle soup shops have a cult like following that make them both universal and hard not to like.  In grad school my favorite lunch was a steaming bowl of pho from the student union.  The options were endless so I could eat there every day without repeating the same bowl of soup twice.

I had never made pho before but decided to give it a try when my craving for the hot broth covered noodles got the best of me.  In browsing through recipe options I came across one in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Splendid Table is my favorite radio program on NPR.  I can even stream their broadcasts online meaning I can get my Lynn Rossetto Kasper fix while living overseas).  I was set to give the pho recipe a try then I turned the page and saw the Cambodian twist on the soup which sounded even more intriguing.  Unable to decide which version to make, I combined the best elements of both recipes to form what I present here.  You can also add or substitute ingredients as your palate or pantry dictates.

The verdict?  This soup is delicious but a lot more work than popping into your local pho shop. But if you don’t have one in close proximity to you, make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.


For the broth:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 two inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

6 whole cloves

1 star anise

Freshly ground black pepper

7 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

For the soup:

8 ounces linguine-style rice noodles

6 ounces thinly sliced top round steak

1 1/2 cups winter squash, diced

1 cup unsweetened pineapple chunks

1 medium tomato, diced

For the table salad:

10 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 sprigs Thai or other fresh basil

8 mint sprigs

Generous handful bean sprouts

2 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced

1 large lime, cut into wedges

Add-in sauces:

Asian hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

  • Place a rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler and then pre-heat the oven.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and evenly distribute the onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, star anise, and five grinds of black pepper over the baking sheet.
  • Broil for 5-6 minutes until the spices are fragrant and the onions begin to brown.  Scrape the mixture into a large soup pot.
  • Add the broth, sugar, fish sauce, and squash to the pot.  Cover the pot tightly and bring the entire mixture to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  • Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large pan and cover with very hot tap water.  Allow to soak for 20 minutes or until the noodles are tender.  Drain, rinse with cold water, then divide evenly between two large soup bowls.
  • Thinly slice the steak into bite sized pieces.  (Hint:  For easier slicing, place the steak in the freezer before you begin making the soup.  Allow it to sit for 20 minutes then remove it from the freezer and slice).  Evenly divide the meat between the two soup bowls.  The hot broth will cook it to a medium-rare
  • Arrange the table salad ingredients on a medium-sized platter and place on the table.
  • When the squash is tender, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the broth and stir well to combine.  Cook for 1 minute to allow the broth to return to a simmer.
  • Ladle the broth over the noodles and meat and serve immediately topped with the table salad and sauces of your choice.

Serves 2

Ricotta & Artichoke Pasta


It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

What makes an already fast dinner even faster? Cooking the entire dish in one pan and that is exactly what you have with this recipe that has been adapted from Cooking Light. The fresh pasta cooks quickly right in the skillet with the vegetables and the cheese. Easy peasy and oh so tasty. Enjoy!


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup prechopped onion
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups artichokes, halved
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 – 14.5 ounce can tomatoes
9 ounces fresh fettuccine
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup torn fresh basil
  •  Preheat broiler to high.
  •  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
  • Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic to pan and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chicken broth, the artichokes, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and pasta to pan, and bring to a boil. Stir to combine.
  • Cover; reduce the heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until pasta is tender.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and dot the pasta mixture evenly with the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.
  • Place pan under broiler. Broil mixture 2 minutes or until cheese melts.
  • Sprinkle evenly with basil.

Serves 4



Pesto is my favorite way to use fresh basil.  Because it can be made in a matter of minutes there is no reason to buy it pre-made.  Simply puree all of the ingredients together in a food processor and you have a sauce that can dress up pasta or be served as a spread on a sandwich or as a marinade for chicken, pork, or fish.  The quantities are only recommendations and you can adjust them to match your preferences.  You can add more or less garlic depending on what you like and walnuts can be substituted for the  more pricy pine nuts if you prefer.  If the sauce it too thick for your liking add additional olive oil to the mixture.

This pesto can be used immediately or stored in a sterile container in the refrigerator for up to one month.  Whenever fresh basil is available I like to have a batch of pesto sitting in the refrigerator ready to use.  It can turn a boring box of pasta into a colorful and flavorful dinner in no time.


4 cups fresh basil leaves

8 cloves garlic

2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the pine nuts in a small saute pan.  Stirring constantly, heat over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes until toasted.  Set aside to cool.
  • Place the basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until the leaves are finely minced.
  • Add the garlic cloves and pine nuts and continue to pulse until all of the ingredients are uniform in size and the mixture resembles a thick paste.
  • With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and pulse to combine.
  • Transfer the basil mixture into a medium-sized bowl. Add the parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield:  2 cups


Grilled Lemon Chicken w/ Feta Rice


Here’s a recipe adapted from Cooking Light that makes me think of the Greek Islands. Its fast and easy and since the chicken is cooked on the grill there isn’t any need to turn on a hot oven in the middle of the summer. A simple marinade of fresh lemon juice gives the chicken a juicy and tangy flavor. And while rice is always nice, the addition of feta and fresh basil brings an ordinary side dish to a whole new level. Plus the entire meal comes together quickly. What more can you ask for?


4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 cups cooked basmati rice
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Place 2 tablespoons  of the lemon juice lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the garlic and the red pepper flakes in a large zip-top bag.
  • Add the chicken breasts, turn to coat, and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Lightly coat a grill with non-stick cooking spray and pre-heat to medium-high heat.
  • Remove chicken from marinade. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the salt and half of the black pepper.
  • Place the chicken on the grill and grill until cooked through, about 12 to 14 minutes per side. Cooking times will vary depending upon the thickness of the meat.
  • While the chicken cooks, make the rice according to package instructions.
  • Combine remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of oil in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  • Add rice to the lemon and oil mixture then sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper.
  • Add the feta and basil leaves and toss to combine.Serve the chicken alongside the rice.

Serves 4


Caprice Pasta


It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This quick dish brings together the best flavors of a Mediterranean summer.  Ripe tomatoes pair with fresh basil and mozzarella to make a flavorful Caprice salad. Add this to pasta and you have a complete meal.  The balsamic reduction brings a rich sweetness to the dish making it fancy enough for a dinner party but also simple enough for a casual meal.


1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

1 pound ziti or other tube-shaped pasta

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat until the vinegar boils.  Reduce heat to a temperature that allows the liquid to simmer and continue to cook until the mixture is syrupy and has reduced to approximately 1/4 cup.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
  • Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the pasta and toss to coat.
  • Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil to the pasta and season with salt and pepper.  Stir gently to combine.
  • Divide amongst four serving dishes and drizzle the balsamic reduction evenly over the top of each bowl.
  • Serve immediately

Serves:  4


Thai Red Curry w/ Duck


Duck is so plentiful here in Belgium that it has been making a regular appearance on our dinner table since we arrived in the country. I’ve been marinading, grilling and roasting it (and making good use of the resulting delicious duck fat) but have recently been expanding my horizons and cooking the meat in different ways. We are also fans of curry at my house, in particular red curry, so this recipe, adapted from Saveur magazine seemed like a natural fit. And I was right.

Like most curries, the ingredients are simple and variable but the results are always packed with flavor in every bite. Here crisp pea pods, chunks of fresh pineapple and sweet grape tomatoes are simmered in a rich red curry ladened coconut milk. Basil–the Thai variety if you can find it–and kaffir lime leaves add complexity to the dish. (You can find kaffir lime leaves in most Asian markets or as I do, in the Asian section of my local grocery store). And of course there is the duck; other meats will work as well but the duck makes the dish taste that much more luxurious. And since the curry cooks up so quickly it makes for a perfect weeknight meal. Enjoy!

2 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
1 pound duck breast, cut into bite sized pieces
10 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 cup fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1″ chunks
1 cup pea pods
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar
6 Thai chiles, stemmed
20 grape tomatoes, halved
3 green onions, white part only
Leaves from 10 basil stems
  • Heat 1 cup of the coconut milk in a large pot over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
  • Whisk in the curry paste and continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is very aromatic, about 5 minutes more.
  • Add the duck to the curry mixture and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the duck is cooked through, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the remaining coconut milk, lime leaves, and 34 cup water.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring, until the flavors have melded, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the pineapple, pea pods, fish sauce, sugar, and chiles and continue to simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pineapple is fork tender, about 5 minutes more.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, green onion and the basil and simmer the curry for 1 minute more; the tomatoes and basil should retain their shape and bright color.
  • Serve the curry with steamed jasmine rice.


Summer Squash Pasta w/ Frizzled Prosciutto


A fun, easy and delicious family friendly meal? Yes, that is what you have with the fun pasta dish courtesy of Cuisine at Home. There is really something for everyone in this dish. Kids loved the “frizzled” prosciutto which is essentially strip of prosciutto that have been cooked until they are crispy. A healthy dose of both yellow squash and zucchini ensure that there are vegetables in every bite while the mild white wine and cream sauce disguises the squashes from vegetable adverse dinners. But for me the best part is the combination of the fresh basil, mint and lemon zest that tops the entire dish. There are truly so many flavors in one bowl that everyone is sure to leave the table happy.


8 ounces small dried pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 ounces prosciutto, sliced into 1/2 inch strips

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 medium zucchini, chopped

1 medium yellow squash, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh mint, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook until crisp. Transfer to a paper lined plate to drain.
  • Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the onion, zucchini and yellow squash. Cook until the onion softens, about 6 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the wine and cook until it is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and pasta, tossing to coat. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, basil, mint, lemon zest and prosciutto.
  • Add the reserved pasta water if necessary to thin the sauce.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 4

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