There’s been a buzz, lately, about the Vietnamese noodle soup known as “phở,” so it’s about time I tried to prepare it. I found an unconventional recipe for “Salmon Phở,” in the June 2011 issue of Cuisine at Home (recipe below), where traditional beef broth is not used. Instead, I used a fishy vegetable broth, where fragrant cilantro stems and fresh ginger simmered. This soup was an exercise in assembly, meaning many components were shredded, chopped, and layered in. The biggest kick was adding the raw slices of salmon to the soup bowls, and allowing the hot broth to cook the salmon right there in your bowl. Neat!

Salmon Phở with Traditional Garnishes
Cuisine at Home, June 2011
Makes 4 servings

For the broth, sauté:
2 cups sliced onion
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

4 cups water
4 cups vegetable-bouillon broth
4 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
2 bunches fresh cilantro stems
shiitake mushroom stems

For the soup, season:
12 oz. salmon fillet
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground coriander
salt and black pepper
2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup very thinly sliced onion
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups cooked medium rice-stick noodles

Serve with:
bean sprouts
chopped scallions
torn fresh mint leaves
torn fresh cilantro leaves
lime wedges

For the broth, sauté 2 cups onion, ginger and garlic in oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan.

Add water, broth, fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. sugar, soy sauce, cloves, cilantro stems, and mushroom stems; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a medium-low, and simmer broth 20 minutes.

Strain broth through a sieve into a large bowl; discard solids. Return broth to saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

For the soup, season salmon slices with 2 tsp. sugar, coriander, salt, and pepper; set aside.

Add mushroom caps, carrots, 1/2 cup scallions, 1/2 cup onion, and 2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves to boiling broth.

Divide salmon and noodles evenly between soup bowls. Pour broth over servings.

Serve soup with bean sprouts, scallions, mint, cilantro, and lime wedges.

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I do enjoy employing elements such as cilantro and mushroom stems in a broth. It makes me feel clever and resourceful. Rice-stick noodles are always a treat, as are crunchy bean sprouts. The final bowl of soup is like a heaped salad, with an aromatic broth and lovely salmon slices. It’s a victory soup.

Just to be crazy, I also made the “Spicy Lentil Tart with Pomegranate and Mint,” from 6 Bittersweets and Veggie Num Num. Here, I got to use some of my favorite ingredients: puff pastry, lentils, tahini. And I made some tasty substitutions too. Instead of pomegranate molasses, I used date molasses; instead of red chili, I used some sweet bell pepper; instead of sumac, I used za’atar; and instead of pomegranate seeds, I used a few Rainier cherries.

You need to set aside time for this recipe, to calmly prepare each step. I used Du Puy lentils, rather than plain brown lentils, and needed to cook these for 40 minutes (instead of 20 minutes). Cooking them with a cinnamon stick is nice. You need to grind your spices in a spice grinder. You need to pre-bake your puff pastry. You need to fry your red onion, then add the cooked lentils, ground spices, and thinned molasses.

Then, there’s the tahini dressing! Tahini is forever beautiful, and once I combine it with olive oil and lemon juice, I know I’m firmly placed in a Middle Eastern recipe. Enjoy the flavor combinations in this recipe: sweetness (molasses, cherries), herbal (za’atar and spices), minty, sesame (tahini). It’s all grand, really.

RECIPES: see what all the phở fuss is about, in this flavorful noodle/vegetable/fish soup, and dare yourself to pile sweetened and spiced lentils atop puff pastry
lots of chopping, slicing, mis-en-place, simmering, straining for the soup; likewise, many separate elements for the lentil tart
soup broth is enhanced with fish sauce, cilantro, and mushrooms, then embellished further with carrots and scallions, bean sprouts and mint; the lentil tart is an exercise for a vegetarian wizard, where sweet herbaceousness rules

Next time, I’ll get a little cute and make the “Mini Blueberry Pies,” from the same June 2011 issue of Cuisine at Home (recipe below). See my sweet delight when you return to my site soon.

Mini Blueberry Pies
Cuisine at Home, June 2011
Makes 4 mini pies

For the pie shells, cut:
2 refrigerated pie crusts
1 egg white, lightly beaten

For the filling, combine:
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. Cointreau
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. plain Greek-style yogurt
mint leaves

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly coat 5 cups of a large 6-cup muffin pan with vegetable oil.

For the pie shells, cut five circles from the pie crusts, transfer into muffin cups, fold edges under, and crimp. Pierce the crusts on sides and bottoms with a fork. Lightly brush crust edges with egg white and bake until golden brown, 13-15 minutes.

For the filling, combine 1 cup of the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, Cointreau, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Microwave mixture 2 minutes, stir, then microwave 2 minutes more; let cool slightly.

Fold remaining 1 cup berries into cooked mixture. Divide filling among the pie shells, Garnish each pie with 1 Tbsp. yogurt and mint.