Thai Basil Whatever

thai basil

 

I wanted to share with you a recipe I’ve been making for years.  Matt and I cooked a lot of Thai food in the first few years we were married.   Matt had a version of this dish while living in Nashville at a place that served Chinese food, but had Thai posters all over their walls.  So Matt asked one day if they would make him some Thai food and the guy excitedly made a chopped chicken dish with Thai basil and hot Thai chilies.  Matt was hooked.  We love the flavors of fish sauce, soy sauce, the heat of peppers and the sweetness of basil that this dish brings.  It’s a wonderful mix of sweet/sour/spicy.  Over the years, we’ve lost the original recipe we first referenced and so this is legitimately a Palmer original.

Again – don’t be afraid of fish sauce.  It’s completely essential to the flavor balance of this dish.  If you can’t find Thai basil, regular Italian basil works just fine.  I’ve used ground pork, chicken and turkey, as well as hand chopped chicken thighs (so good), but my go-to is ground turkey.  Don’t leave off the fried egg!

Thai Basil Turkey 
serves 4

1lb ground chicken, turkey or pork
3 tbs peanut oil or canola oil
1 medium white onion, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 or 5 seeded jalapenos, diced (or Thai chilies, or whatever kind of pepper/heat level you want)
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

This recipe goes quicker if you use a large wok over really high heat.  If you don’t have a wok, use the largest stainless steal skillet, or cast iron skillet you have.  Heat the oil over medium high heat till it shimmers.  Add in the onion and stir a few times till they soften.  Working quickly, stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add in your ground meat and jalapenos and stir until meat is cooked through.  If you want more heat, stir in your chilies closer to the end of cooking.  When the meat has cooked through, toss in the fish and soy sauce and stir to coat.  Remove the pan from heat, stir in the chopped basil and cover to keep warm.  In a non-stick skillet, fry a couple eggs in peanut oil, and a splash of soy sauce and serve on top.

I typically serve this over about a half cup of rice.  I’m not going to tell you how to cook rice.

 

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Confession Time and a Side Dish You Never Thought You’d Love

roasted broccoli

I said I’d be honest on this blog and today is just such a post.  Last week, a sweet friend of mine said, ” You are officially one of those moms that makes me question my ability to fully parent and live well/completely.” I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with that comment, but I think I know, now.  It’s time to be honest!  Last week wasn’t good.  Olive got sick on Tuesday with her first stomach bug in her little year on this earth.  It wrecked her appetite, needless to say, and she subsisted for the rest of the week on mostly bananas, bits of bread, small bites of chicken and forced bites of a few benign vegetables like carrots and…carrots.  My little super-eater turned into the “picky eater” kid and even today, isn’t back at full steam.  She plays fine, acts fine, but when it comes to eating – it’s a fight.

I tried my best to stay the course; don’t force her, don’t get stressed, if she doesn’t eat much at lunch, she’ll catch up at dinner – but I was fearful all week that this stomach bug would make her afraid of food, of eating, of trying new things and in one week, all would be lost.  You think I’m exaggerating for the sake of this blog.  I wish I was.  I guess, today, my confession is that I try too dadgum hard to make things go perfectly, and when they don’t, I feel like an utter failure.  Perhaps this isn’t the day to write because last night I slept maybe three hours (my inability to turn my brain off and relax) but I thought about my friend’s comment on my status, and I just wanted to tell her that we only show our best online.  We only write statuses we are either proud of or find ironically funny.  So no one heard all week how scared I was that Olive was sick, or how miserable I felt when she wouldn’t eat a bite all day for a couple days in a row.  And of course I didn’t write statuses about how I got angry with her and made her cry because she kept dropping food off the side of the high chair.  I don’t like writing about that part of life.  The hard part.  The part that makes you question if you’re doing everything wrong and will, inevitably, scar your child when it’s all said and done.  I thought, “How much would everyone love if Olive ended up hating a variety of food just because I want her to love food so much?”  And it’s sad, but I really do feel that most of the people I know would secretly laugh if that happened.  And I can’t say that I blame them.  I’m very passionate about cooking and food and banning “kid-food” and teaching children to eat well and have manners at the table.  I wouldn’t say that I have much camaraderie in that area, at least not locally.  Or maybe I just don’t feel it because I’m not admitting to the hard parts that happen, as well.  I’m only telling you that she ate baby bok choy with fish sauce vinaigrette last week and loved it.  Not that she cried big, fat tears today because I wouldn’t let her hold a fork while she ate (she’d just throw it or poke herself in the face).  Sigh.

Our hard week came to a head this morning as Olive had her one year check up and got 5 shots in her little legs.  So, I made a soup for her for lunch.  Cream of celery, and I pureed the heck out of it so that there’d be no chunks.  I just didn’t feel like challenging her today. She ate fine.  Not as much as last week, but enough.  And I will continue to do what I know in my heart to be best.  Let her be a person with feelings and a new found opinion on things, and try not to force her to like something just because I do.  She’ll come around.  And if today, she only wants the texture of soups and yogurt, then that’s fine.  Maybe tomorrow she’ll eat something more challenging.  The point, I think, is to get back to the heart of what makes food and cooking beautiful: it’s something to be shared.  Eating, first, should be enjoyable.  Not nutritious, not organic – but delicious.  Good for the soul.  Shared with family and friends.  Happy.  Stress-free.  Not another lesson to pass or fail.  I vow to back off in my intensity for success at having a “good eater” a bit and get back to what makes food so amazing.  It’s good.

An incredible way to enjoy a couple of vegetables that might not be everyone’s favorite is first: roast them till they’re a little crispy.  And second: toss them in a vinaigrette!  In today’s recipe, that vinaigrette is one that contains fish sauce and it’s incredible.  I know you wouldn’t typically put “fish sauce” and “incredible” in the same sentence, but you’ll start to once you try this.  Also, it’s from David Chang’s genius book, Momofuku, and I’m pretty sure he’s never made anything bad in his life.  It’s so simple and the vinaigrette recipe makes a lot, so you can save it in your fridge to toss with pretty much any roasted vegetable.  The original recipe called to toss it with roasted brussels sprouts, which is a vegetable most think they don’t like.  But I’m pretty convinced you’re always just one recipe away from liking something you thought you never would.  So!  Try this today and let me know what you think.  Fish sauce can be found in most Asian sections of supermarkets near all the soy sauce, but if you have trouble, you can definitely find it at any Asian mart in town.

roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts

 

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinagrette

1 medium head broccoli
1/2 head cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbs Fish Sauce Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut up the broccoli and cauliflower into small, bite sized pieces.  I trim the “trees” in half so that they roast better.  You want to aim to make the size of your vegetables all nearly the same so they cook at the same rate.  Toss in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Don’t crowd the pan.  Put it on two pans if you need to.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes, or until they start to get kinda crispy and browned on the edges like in the photo above.  When they’re done, toss in a large bowl with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.  For some reason, broccoli gets cold faster than any other vegetable known to man.

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 3 red bird’s-eye chilies, thinly sliced

Combine everything in a large mason jar with a tight fitting lid.  Or any container with a tight fitting lid that won’t leak.  Shake it all around until the sugar dissolves.  Keep in the fridge for up to a week.