There couldn’t have been a more fitting week to share this recipe with you. It’s been a whirlwind few days – an up and back trip to NYC (more on that next week), too many moonshine cocktails while I was there (hold me) and not enough sleep (sleep is for wimps, right?). Add to that a pizza shoot – melty cheese on camera is no joke – which is only the first of many tough styling subjects this month. It’s been the perfect time to turn to soup that comforts me…and none does that better than pho. There is something so restorative and soothing in that richly flavored broth and having carte blanche to slurp those noodles. Sadly for me, pho has become sort of a challenge since going veggie/pescatarian. While many places serve a version with shrimp instead of the eye/round steak, the base of the broth is the same for all bowls – a meat based broth. I’ve taken matters into my own hands and made a veggie version that’s really quite good. The smell as the broth is simmering is nothing short of intoxicating. Listen carefully when I say this…ready? This is a base recipe for a vegetarian pho. One thing I’ve learned by hanging out with folks who like pho is that every person eats theirs differently. This broth doesn’t have a ton of salt cooked into it because I like to add a few splashes of Maggi seasoning or hoisin sauce to mine before I eat it. This soup also doesn’t have a lot of inherent heat – I love mine spicy but my sweetie does not. So I’ve left this as a fragrant, neutral broth that you can build on. Add more salt or soy to it. Simmer a Thai red chili in it if you want to go for the gusto. Add tofu, shrimp (if you want to go to the pescatarian route) or other veggies – some shelled edamame or bok choy instead of the cabbage would be yummy here. Just taste your broth – and take in some deep breath smells – as you go along and adjust to your liking. Vegetarian Pho – makes 4 medium bowls of pho – adapted from the recipe found on Vegetarian Times 4 cups good quality low sodium vegetable broth 4 cups water 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms 3 large shallots, thinly sliced 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced 1″ piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced into 1/8″ pieces 6 tbsp. light soy sauce 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar 3 star anise 3 cinnamon sticks 1 small handful thai basil stems & leaves 1 small handful cilantro stems & leaves 1 8 ounce package dried rice noodles 2 cups shredded Napa or Savoy cabbage 2 cups fresh mung bean or soybean sprouts 1/2 cup fresh chopped green onions 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn Thai basil 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro 1 lime, cut into wedges for garnish Optional for serving: sliced fresh jalapenos, Maggi seasoning, extra soy sauce, Sriracha, hot garlic chili sauce – For the broth: Place the first 12 ingredients in a large soup pot with a lid. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then reduce temperature and simmer mostly covered for 1 1/2 hours. Strain through a fine mesh colander to get all the bits out. Return the broth to the pot and bring back to temp over medium heat. – To assemble the soup: Cook the rice noodles according to the package – as a default method, cook the noodles in boiling water for 3-4 minutes until tender, drain and rinse with some cool water quickly to stop the cooking. Drain these thoroughly. Evenly distribute the noodles and cabbage between the serving bowls. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles. Top each bowl with some sprouts, basil, cilantro, a sprinkle of green onions and some lime. Serve immediately.