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I knew we were moving into a new level in our relationship when he brought me to his favorite pho` spot. His search for the perfect bowl was something he mentioned before, and I knew he was making a serious gesture when he brought me to the little place he never took anyone to and didn’t want too many people knowing about. He and I are too similar in some ways. We both appreciate the little hole-in-the-wall places you pass by countless times, and when you find one that is justsogood, well that’s gold in your hand, baby. And this place was that good.

Eventually, the restaurant shuttered and we had to find other places to go. We married, became parents, and though there is no shortage of restaurants, time is a whole other box of crayons. I am making a whole lot more meals at home, including pho.

This is the stuff that gets me there, and I am kind of in love with it:

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… and now Savory Choice makes a chicken pho concentrate, and it is justsogood. Non-GMO, no MSG, gluten-free, and it doesn’t taste like a salt lick. It just tastes like the concentrated flavors of chicken, spices, herbs, all in one squeezy little packet. Yum.

California Farmers Market Chicken Pho

2 oz rice vermicelli noodles
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 bunch Thai basil
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 4oz package of daikon radish sprouts
2-4 medium radishes (I used French breakfast radishes)
2-4 Thai chilies
1 stalk of green garlic
2 Tbsp flour
Pinch salt
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 packets of Savory Choice Chicken Pho Concentrate

Bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil and add the vermicelli. Cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Immediately drain the noodles and rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain and set aside.
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Shred the chicken breast by pulling apart with two forks or with your hands.

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Prep the basil and cilantro by plucking the top leaves and tender stems and the larger leaves from the tougher lower part of the stem.

Using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, trim the roots away from the sprouts.

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Thinly slice the radishes, chilies, and green garlic. Set the radishes and chilies aside.

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In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the green garlic slices and toss around to separate and lightly coat. Heat the veggie oil in a small pan. Add the green garlic, shaking away the excess flour before tossing into the pan. Stirring often, saute the garlic until light golden brown and crisp. Immediately spoon the garlic onto a paper towel-lined dish to drain and cool.

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Bring 4 cups of water to a simmer. Squeeze the pho concentrate packet contents into the water and give it a little whisk to dissolve.

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Into two bowls arrange the noodles and chicken in the bottom. Pour in the broth. Add the other ingredients as you like.

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Grab some large spoons and chopsticks and slurp with reckless abandon.

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I really like when an entire month is devoted to a particular food. January is National Soup Month, which after a solid few weeks of plague settling in my home, seems just awesome to me.

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Did you get that crazy cold/flu/sinus personal fiasco that’s been going around? I really hope not, but if you did, this is a nice soup to get you through. I started this recipe with the intention of using up the rest of a massive bunch of parsley I had, and it became a not-too-heavy soup that is packed with veggie goodness.

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Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Parsley-Almond Pistou

For the soup:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large head of cauliflower, stem and leaves removed, broken into medium-large chunks
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese or gruyere, shredded
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

For the Pistou:

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 c. roasted almonds
1/3 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Roasted almonds, roughly chopped, for garnish
Olive oil, for garnish

For the soup:

Place an 8 quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the oil. Stir the onion and garlic in and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the cauliflower, stock and bay leaves and continue to cook, covered, until the cauliflower is fork tender. Remove from heat. Fish out the bay leaves and discard.
Working in batches, puree the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and place over medium heat. Add the milk and bring up to a low simmer. Add the cheeses a handful at a time, stirring until fully melted between each addition. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the pistou:

Combine the parsley, garlic, almonds, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into a chunky mass. With the machine running, drizzle in the lemon juice, followed by the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the soup into a nice, big bowl and garnish with a healthy dollop of pistou, roasted almonds, and if you like, a little more olive oil.

Slurp with reckless abandon.