FRONT BURNER: Stir-fry turkey is another way to use up excess basil preserved from freezing

With freezing weather forecast, I took the snipers to my herb garden, harvesting all the basil and last sprigs of mint that hadn’t shriveled from thirst during the drought. And (in vain) I picked the last of my peppers and tomatoes, knowing that their green, firm flesh would probably never ripen, but I just couldn’t let Mother Nature’s biting cold take them away without a chance.

I thought about making and freezing pesto with all the basil, but remembered a recipe from “Milk Street Tuesday Nights” for stir-fried chicken with snow peas and basil that I had on my list of things to do for several months. It uses over 3 cups of basil.

I didn’t have some of the other ingredients, so I improvised on the veggies and protein, opting for ground turkey instead of the diced chicken, and replacing the red peppers with snow peas.

I served it over rice.

The dish received mixed reviews. Although we both finished our plates, my husband wasn’t as enamored with the flavor combination as I was, but in his defense he’s not a big fan of basil.

You’ll want to serve this dish right away because the basil will discolor quickly.

Stir-fried turkey with lots of basil

  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided use
  • Ground black or white pepper
  • 1 pound ground turkey (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil or other high heat vegetable oil, divided use
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, PLUS 3 cups torn and loosely packed
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
  • 2 small to medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch by ½-inch pieces (see note)
  • 8 green onions (1 bunch), finely chopped white and light green parts, dark green tops cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 or 3 jalapeno, serrano, or Fresno peppers, stemmed and thinly sliced ​​(I used Fresno and Havasu from my garden)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, 1 tbsp fish sauce and ½ tsp white pepper. Pour the soy mixture over the turkey and let stand for up to 15 minutes. (I left the turkey in its plastic tray.)

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until smoking. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up into crumbs, until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl, then stir in the chopped basil and vinegar. Put aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add red peppers, white/light green scallions and chilies. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the sugar. Add the green tops of the scallion and the turkey with the accumulated juices and cook, stirring, until most of the juices have evaporated, about 1 minute.

Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and the chopped basil. Stir until the basil is wilted. Taste and season with white pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: To follow the original recipe, use 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces and 4 ounces sugar snap peas, stringless, halved on the bias.

Recipe adapted from “Milk Street Tuesday Nights” by Christopher Kimball.

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