Pasta with Coconut Curry Sauce and Fresh Herb(s)

This isn’t your regular pasta with sauce, rather pasta in a coconut-curry broth. You can add some protein to this (the original recipe used cubed tofu), preferable already cooked, or quick-cooking like shrimp or scallops. It’s rather good with canned salmon and tuna. if going for fish, you might consider fish stock, or bottled clam juice mixed with water. Or leave the protein out all together. If you have more than one herb on hand, combine them. The flavor will be that much more complex. You can use any thin pasta here, rice noodles being the most authentic; spaghettini and spaghetti work well here. Curry or chile paste is a must here. They can be bought in most markets now.

6 oz or so dried pasta (guestimate if you don’t have a scale)
1 1/2 c coconut milk
1 1/2 T curry or chile paste
1 1/2 c broth or stock
salt, to taste
6 oz or so cooked or quickly cooked protein
2/3 – 3/4 c chopped or minced fresh herb(s), divided
crushed red pepper or cayenne powder, to taste (omit if using chile paste)

1. Bring salted water to the boil for the pasta.

2. In another pot or skillet, bring 1/2 c of the coconut milk to a simmer. Add the curry or chile paste and mash and whisk until combined and smooth. Add the remaining coconut milk, broth or stock, and salt to taste and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add protein.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions and/or your personal preference. Drain.

4. Just before serving stir most of the chopped herbs into the broth. Put a serving of pasta pasta bowls or other bowls. Ladle some of the broth over the noodles, making sure to distribute the protein evenly. Sprinkle with some of the reserved herb(s) and some crushed red pepper flakes, if using.

Fava Beans with Ricotta and Herbs

This is a simple way to enjoy fava beans. It makes for a nice appetizer and also a nice lunch for yourself (so you get to eat the all the favas). You can sub the ricotta for cottage cheese, puréed until smooth; farmer cheese; fromage blanc; mashed tofu; or even quark. Some black olives are good here, they add a briny note as well as a visual counterpoint. Serve with some good bread, toasted or lightly grilled.

1 c shelled fava beans, membranes removed
1 c ricotta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
2 – 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
black, pitted olives, halved, optional
3 – 4 T fresh, chopped herb(s), or ver finely chopped greens

1. Cook favas in (lightly salted) boiling water for 4 – 5 minutes. Drain, cool in an icy water bath, then drain again.

2. Put ricotta on a serving plate or shallow bowl (like a pasta bowl). Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Scatter over fava beans, olives if using, and chopped herb(s).

Herb Lemon Pesto

Pestos can be used for more than as a sauce for pasta. They’re great smeared over meats and vegetables before roasting and grilling, too. You can also spread them on bread for a sandwich, or mix them with sandwich fillings. I like to match an herb pesto with a dish that is complementary such as sage pesto with turkey or chicken or dill pesto with lamb or salmon, for example. The parsley is added with the “main” herb so the pesto is not too overpowering, but you may not find that to be the case. So, by all means, go with a single herb. Lemon juice adds a fresh taste element not usually associated with pesto.

1/3 c fresh herb, such as sage, oregano, dill, etc.
1/3 c fresh parsley, or use all one herb
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
2 – 3 T pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds
1/4 c lemon juice
1/3 – 1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz until a consistency you like–coarse or fine–is reached. Start with the lesser amounts of nuts and olive oil, and add more if you think it’s necessary.You can also put the herb, garlic, nuts, and lemon juice in the food processor or blender and whizz until coarsely chopped. Then, with the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil until you get the consistency you want. Transfer the pesto to a container and stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper.

Thai-style Pasta with Cabbage

You could toss in some form of protein, cooked chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, egg, tofu, beans, or a combination, to make a one-dish meal.

2 T vegetable oil
3 – 4 c chopped cabbage
1 c chopped onion
3 c dried pasta
1/4 c (crunchy) peanut butter or 1/2 c chopped, roasted peanuts
2 t lime juice, or other citrus juice
1 1/2 t brown sugar
2 t soy sauce, or to taste
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 – 1/2 t crushed red pepper
1/2 t curry powder, or to taste
1/8 t ground cloves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c coconut milk
1 – 2 T chopped fresh cilantro, or use all cilantro
1 – 2T chopped fresh basil, or use all basil

1. Put a pot of water on for the pasta. Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the cabbage and onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, depending on how thickly the cabbage is sliced. Transfer to a serving bowl.

2. When the pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions and/or your own preference. Meanwhile, using the skillet or another cooking pot, combine the peanut butter, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crushed red pepper, curry powder, cloves, and garlic. Heat gently over low heat, stirring to melt the peanut butter and incorporate the ingredients. Once the peanut butter is melted, slowly add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Heat to just a simmer–don’t let the mixture come to the boil, or the coconut milk will separate.

3. When the pasta is done, drain and toss with the cabbage/onion mixture. Add the coconut milk mixture and stir to combine. Mix in the chopped fresh herb(s).

Swiss Chard and Bean Soup with Herbs

Beans and greens are always a great combination, the addition of herbs makes the combination terrific. You could use kale or other greens here. Depending on the type of greens, you may have to add them earlier or just at the end.

3 T vegetable oil
2 c thinly sliced onions, in half moons
1 t salt
1/4 – 1/2 t turmeric
6 c broth or water, or a combination
1 c macaroni or other small pasta, or linguine or spaghetti broken into small pieces
6 – 8 c coarsely chopped chard leaves, thick stems removed
2 c cooked beans, rinsed and drained if canned
1 1/2 – 2 c chopped fresh herb, a combination if possible (the more the merrier)
pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add onions and salt, reduce heat and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. If the onions are starting to brown, either reduce the heat, or take the pot off the element, reduce heat, wait a minute or so, then return the pot to the element. This applies mainly to electric stove owners. Once golden, remove about a quarter cup of onions and reserve.

2. Add turmeric to onions and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add broth and/or water and bring to the boil. Add pasta and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Add chard and beans and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender and pasta is done to your preference, about 5 minutes–taste to make sure–then remove from heat, stir in herbs, and some pepper to taste. Cover the pot and let sit for about 5 minutes, to allow the flavor(s) of the herb(s) to develop.

3. Serve, topped with reserved onion.

Blueberry Salsa with Herbs

Fruit salsas are always great additions to summer tables–not only as accompaniments to dishes, but also as dips for chips and veggies and toppings for breads and crackers. Anything you’d use a tomato salsa for–after all, tomato is botanically a fruit…

If you have a dermal sensitivity to chiles, use a kitchen towel or rubber gloves while handling, and remember the first rule of chiles–when you work with chiles your eyes will start to itch and you will want to rub your eyes. Resist the urge.

vegetable oil, for chiles
1 – 2 chiles, depending on type and heat level of chile(s)
3 c blueberries, stemmed; divided; or cherries, plums (pitted, chopped)…
1/3 c finely chopped scallion or (red) onion
3 – 4 T lime juice or other citrus juice
1/4 t salt, or to taste
1/2 c thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 c coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1. Grill, roast or pan fry the chile(s). Use the vegetable oil to grease the grill, roasting pan, or frying pan. Cook, turning frequently, until charred and blistered. Cool some, then cut off stems and remove skin, if possible. The skin should be somewhat wrinkled and you should be able to pull pieces off. Cut in half and remove seeds if you like, some or all. Chop finely.

2. Put 2 cups of the blueberries in a food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add chile(s), scallion or onion, lime juice, and salt. Stir to combine. Add remaining blueberries, basil, cilantro, and olive oil. Stir again. Taste and adjust, if you like. This benefits from a bit of a marinade, but is still excellent served immediately.