Lunchbox: Turkey Thai Basil

Contacts sent, 5. Replies that made me panic I hadn't written a good enough letter, 1; incredibly overwhelmingly positive replies after writing different letter, 1.

Appetitive was sorely and sadly neglected the past two weeks. It just didn’t happen. In the wake of the frantic graduate school application business, everything else sort of got pushed aside. I skipped book club. I overslept forty minutes every day.
I didn't do all the vaccuuming - ok, maybe that's not such a unique thing. It was not a pretty week. I’m trying to be rather upbeat about it, as my current non-psych reading material, The Highly Effective Detective by Richard Yancey, hit home with a well-placed dryly noted mental meandering of the detective: Cynicism is easy; optimism takes real effort. Never let it be said I do anything the easy way.

Getting back on track with the entries – and the cooking! - then, this week’s Lunchbox is actually the second effort of a recipe I made two weeks back I’d meant to blog but just never found the motivation for. After the Great Plant Fiasco, I decided my life would be incomplete without Thai basil from here on out. Among myriad other essentials in my freezer there are now two ginormous bags of frozen Thai basil stalks and a separate bag of Kaffir lime leaves. The hint about freezing the basil whole came from some skilled googling and a comment on Is It EDible? from a while back. There doesn’t seem to be so far any of the messiness of regular basil, that demands all sorts of fussiness with grinding it in food processors with oil and freezing it in little bits so it doesn’t turn black. I actually debating experimenting with this in terms of taking a ton of the Thai basil leaves, whirling them up with sesame oil and freezing them in that matter, but took my chances on simply Ziplocking them in. So far, so good – they start to thaw instantly and not very prettily, so you need to know what you’re doing with them before you even open the freezer door. But if they go straight to the pan, they cook just as well as fresh ones with no textural or taste difference, and it is nice to have them in whole leaves rather than tiny bits.
Two points of importance here: the lime leaves really need to be very finely slivered here (you can see them in the picture below, much finer than that is needed); otherwise I found them to be a bit waxy-tasting and strange. And despite the recipe's seasonings quantity, it's actually spot-on. First time I was hesitant with the fish sauce, as the bottle just smells so sweetly fishy to me I think it's a mistake to put any in and then I end up dashing more on the plate later. It seems so strange, given that smell is such a huge component of flavor, that I could like the taste and not the smell, but I’m not letting it keep me up nights. Nor do I let the fact that this has an unholy amount of garlic in it stop me from taking it to work - I figure I've already gone and stunk the building up with mercaptans once, they can handle garlic emanating from the microwave.

varied only slightly from here

2 Tbsp canola oil
10-12 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, sliced in thin half moons and then cut down the centers
1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey
6 dried Thai chilis, cut in half
2 kaffir lime leaves, very finely slivered
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp or so lime juice
leaves and flowers from 3 full stalks frozen Thai basil

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and stir around for 20 seconds; add the onion and cook for about a minute and a half. Add the ground turkey and break up using a plastic spatula; cook until just no longer pink.
Add the dried split chilis and the lime leaves. In a small bowl stir to combine the soy, fish sauce, and lime juice and sprinkle over. Toss well to combine and then add the frozen Thai basil. Increase the heat if necessary to maintain a boil of the liquid and stir-fry another three minutes so that little if any liquid remains in the pan. Serve with hot jasmine rice. Extremely addictive.


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