Basil: From Soup to Dessert (with a few salads and a main course tossed in, too)
Corn, Crab and Basil Salad – a perfect for now salad that, in addition to the star players, has a Thai sweet chili sauce and sriracha dressing that you’ll love using for lots of other dishes.
Basil, Mozzarella and Plum Salad – kind of caprese … but not.
Salmon and Basil Tapenade – a riff on one of my favorite recipes from Around My French Table. You dress up storebought (or homemade) black-olive tapenade with fresh basil, lemon zest and lemon juice and you use some of the mix to stuff the salmon and some to drizzle over the fish. (It’s faster to make the dish than it is to describe it.)
Chilled Basil-Zucchini Soup – just when you thought there wasn’t anything else you could do with all the zucchini that’s around, along comes this soup, which I love. I’ve been making it all summer, sometimes serving it in proper soup bowls with a squiggle of cream and sometimes just passing it around in glasses. It also makes a great afternoon slurper.
Sweet Avocado-Basil Cream with Mango and Berries – yes, avocado and basil for dessert. Don’t say a word until you’ve made it and then, please, please, write and tell me what you think.
Now here’s the recipe for the noodle salad. Hold on to the method for poaching the chicken, it’s very play-aroundable and a terrific way to cook chicken breasts destined for a salad.
BASIL-RICE NOODLE SALAD with GINGER-BASIL POACHED CHICKEN
Makes 4 to 6 servings, depending on whether it’s an app or a main
For the chicken:
3 cups chicken broth
3 slices fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 point star anise
Sliver hot pepper
Basil stems (from the basil you’ll use to finish the salad)
1 (full) boneless, skinless chicken breast
For the dressing:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 limes)
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
For the salad:
1/2 pound rice noodles (also called rice sticks)
2 cups shredded green cabbage (shortcut: buy a bag of undressed coleslaw and use it for the cabbage and carrots)
2 carrots, peeled, trimmed and grated
2 ounces (about 15) snow peas, thinly sliced
1 spring onion or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, slivered
1 small chile, finely chopped (optional)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
Handful fresh basil leaves
Chopped roasted, salted peanuts
Other possible additions to the salad:
Sliced cherry tomatoes
To poach the chicken: Bring all the ingredients – except the chicken – to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drop in the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the chicken to steep and cook for about 20 minutes, or until it is no longer pink at the center. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred or cube it. (You can make the chicken up to a day ahead and keep it wrapped in the fridge. Don’t toss the poaching liquid – it’s a really nice soup.)
To make the dressing: Put all the ingredients in a covered jar and shake to blend; make sure the sugar dissolves. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you’d like. Depending on your taste, you might want a little heat or a little more salt or even a little more sugar.
To make the salad: Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Toss in the rice noodles. Turn off the heat and let the noodles rest in the water until they soften – 1 to 2 minutes. Slide the slippery noodles into a colander and run cold water over them until they’re cold. Shake the colander to drain the noodles as well as you can. (I once tried drying them in a kitchen towel – messy and not worth the effort.)
Turn the noodles into a large serving bowl and toss them with a little of the dressing. Top with all the salad ingredients – don’t forget the chicken – and finish with the basil and peanuts.
You can either pour on more dressing and toss the salad now, or bring the salad to the table, collect a few oohs and aahs and finish dressing and tossing it in front of your audience. Your choice. Either way, it’s impossible to go wrong.