From the first fresh zucchini and fava beans to the delicious wave of sweet strawberries and blueberries harvested daily from our area farms, the spring season has officially arrived.
Also now in the mix is one of my favorite fresh herbs that I incorporate into everything from salads and pasta dishes to bruschetta and seafood preparations: aromatic basil.
The Her Family Farm is always the first on the scene with the most diverse offerings of this culinary delight, each yielding slightly different properties. The most commonly recognized variety is the Italian basil, possessing the largest leaves with pleasing licorice-like notes throughout. Lemon basil is another great option that I most commonly enjoy pairing with seafood dishes.
The leaves of lemon basil tends to be slightly smaller than its Italian counterpart and have a noticeable lemony aroma and tangier flavor.
Finally — and probably my favorite — is the Thai basil.
It’s noticeable by the variegated purple color that runs through the stems, flowers and partially into the veins of the leaves. This variety tends to be the most intense and peppery, giving your dish a little extra kick.
Basil is a herb that I tend to add at the very end of the cooking process when used in hot preparations such as soups, stir-fry’s and curry-style dishes.
This week I incorporated my Thai basil into a coconut soup, a variation of a dish called tom kha gai. It’s a dish that I enjoyed throughout a trip to Thailand many years ago, and I also have found it at most local Thai restaurants.
I would typically add some sliced peppers, both bell peppers and spicy Thai chilies to this dish. But since they’re not in season, I decided to work in some Chinese Broccoli, also available from Her Family Farm.
Coconut Thai Basil Soup
14 ounce can coconut milk (I typically use light coconut milk)
2 cups chicken broth (I typically use low sodium)
1 stalk fresh lemongrass (available from Her Family Farm at the Saturday market), cut into 1 inch pieces, very top and base portion discarded.
2 inch piece of ginger root. Peeled then sliced into very thin rounds (mandolin thin)
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into small rounds or julienned
1 bunch Chinese broccoli, cut into 1 inch pieces Juice and zest from 1 lime
2 tablespoons Thai chili paste
2 green onions, diced
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely chopped.
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
In a medium shallow pot, bring coconut milk, chicken broth, lemongrass and ginger to a boil. Then add your chicken, sesame oil, carrots, Chinese broccoli, lime zest and juice, and chili paste.
Reduce to a simmer and stir. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the lemongrass pieces (they are too woody to eat) and serve. Top each bowl with green onions, cilantro, and Thai basil leaves.
Yield: Serves about 3.