Chicken Basil Riff and the Venice to Istanbul Trip


Just coming home from a two-week vacation is work enough (back in the saddle again), but coming home to find a #deadbodysmell fridge-freezer before you’ve even unloaded the doggies is just plain nasty.  I had already needed to buy a washer and dryer on the way home as my dryer had died right before our flight to Venice and the washer was on its last legs.  I was looking forward to a fast delivery to take care of the two weeks of suitcase clothing.  Don’t want vacation tails? (sic) Scroll down past the photos for recipe.

12088334_1039242892806072_1112814192825993745_nI accused Dave of creating the wafting, unhappy-nose and brain smell-GOD, GOD, IT WAS TRAGIC; he denied it vehemently.  I looked at the dogs, who looked back at me; they had nada.  (Above:  at super Double D Ranch for camp.) As I opened the car door, I realized it was the garage that smelled and just knew an animal -ARGH- had entered and died.  We looked around and found no raccoon, bear, cat, etc. (We really do have bears in garages here.) Dave went to the 2001 double-door fridge/freezer we removed from the kitchen during the remodel–obviously none too soon–and not being able to stop himself from opening it, discovered a sickening mess that had been going on for a while. Quite a while.

In the house was a note from the woman who cleans our house and stays over occasionally when we travel.  “House is great; can’t figure out the smell in garage.”

IMG_1621Just when I was feeling oh-so-sigh-Venicy.  We did surely, surely have a glorious time with six friends taking the long route on a ship that, beginning in Venice with a side-trip to Florence, had to nearly blow through Brindisi, Italy; Katakolon, Greece (Olympia); Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey; and Dubrovnik, Croatia to make it back to Venice in a week. Just for info:  we went on MSC Cruises (ship=Magnifica), an Italian line, and they showed us a gorgeous time. Beautiful ship (a little big at 3,000 passengers for this Holland America girl), good food, polite staff, lack of constant corny announcements, and a dependable please-read-your-daily-program-we-aren’t-your-babysitters approach to cruising.

Below: a few favorite pics, though I’ll admit I just grabbed these and I’m sure there are other better ones I’ll find as I go through them. Stay tuned.

IMG_2939 above: courtyard of our first Venice hotel, Palazzo Contarini della Porto di FerroIMG_1611 above: gondola traffic jam and none tipped overIMG_1632

above:  a sunset road in VeniceIMG_1637 above: a Uffizi gallery (Florence) ceilingIMG_1638 above: Dave reading up on Florence at the UffiziIMG_1640 above: the more famous Uffizi ceilingIMG_1646

above: shop across the street from our dinner restaurant (Florence–a day trip). I kept thinking it was the perfect spot for my dear friend, Chris Kliesen Wehrman.

IMG_1656 above: more Venice–a typical shotIMG_1674 above: on the way to the ship in the water taxi. Dave with the guys in our group and our fab driver who could talk–including with his hands, text, run the boat, and change coats all at the same time.IMG_1692 above:  lunch in Brindisi, Italy at Betty’s- on the waterIMG_1697

above: friend Lani enjoying dinner on the ship


above:  Dave and I at Olympia, Greece–site of the very first OlympicsIMG_1730

above:  Olympia, Greece-entrance to the stadium.  Shades of our football players running onto the fieldIMG_1739

above: perfect lunch in Greece at Magna Grecia Farm near Olympia and Kotokolon, Greece. Served with their own wine, olives, and olive oilIMG_1740

above: dancing at lunch.  IMG_1749

above:  a few of the olives they grow. Of course I brought back olive oil, silly.  IMG_1773above:  breakfast in Izmir, Turkey. This in addition to a huge platter of tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, olives, etc.

above: one of the many dogs of IstanbulIMG_1820

above: warm Turkish flatbread (yufka) served in a jewelry store restaurantIMG_1843

above and below:  Topkapi Palace, IstanbulIMG_1845IMG_1856above:  Istanbul grand bazaar

above: a guy I wanted to take home   (many homeless dogs in Turkey, though the ones we saw were apparently happy and healthy dogs)IMG_1879 above:  Dubrovnik, Croatia harbor buildingsIMG_1894above:  traditional Dubrovnik black risotto with mussels and cuttlefish (my delicious lunch)
IMG_1907above:  Dave in a tiny bar high above the ocean, cut into the rocks in Dubrovnik. I can’t tell you what it took to hike up there.

That’s it for the slides for today, though you know I have hundreds of photos. I just quickly pulled out a few and haven’t even edited them. Later.  But back to  a coming home dinner…

Arriving home in Colorado near lunch time, I pulled two-quarts of soup out of the freezer and quickly heated it for our lunch (Turkey Wild Rice with Vegetables if you’re wondering). How quick? Maybe 20 minutes total:  place containers in sink and let hot water run over them until they’ll slide easily into a small soup pot. Heat over medium heat, covered, until bubbly. Thank God for the other working freezer and for soup in it!

Despite the afternoon spent cleaning up the garage mess, dinner would be needed. (I will say that with a single call to our garbage company, a truck was at our house within about two hours to pick up the bags of mess that simply couldn’t remain within smelling distance. Our other option was to bury it deep enough that dogs and other critters didn’t dig it back up. We didn’t feel capable.  We also live on bedrock:)  I had picked up boneless chicken breasts, spinach, tomatoes, basil plus the basics –milk, eggs, bread, and thought I’d make a simple stir fry. Quick. Filling, Healthy.   Try this:



serves 4

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 large, boneless chicken breasts, 1-inch dice
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons each soy sauce and fish sauce
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  1. In a 2-quart sauce pan, heat rice with 1 1/2 cups water, a pinch each of salt and pepper and the butter over high heat. When boiling, reduce to a bare whispy simmer, cover, and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until needed-at least 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high flame in a wok or a large sauté pan. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until softening–4 or 5 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, and chicken; season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt , pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Cook a minute or so, stirring.
  3. Pour in wine, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Add spinach, basil, and tomatoes.  Let cook until sauce is a bit thickened, the chicken is just cooked through, and the vegetables are as tender as you’d like.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Divide hot rice between 4 bowls (3/4 cup each) and top each with a fourth of the stir fry.  Garnish with scallions and cilantro.  Serve immediately.

If you like this, you might like Chicken Basil Fried Rice–a great recipe with awful pictures. Still…  it’ll cook. You’ll be happy.

Ciao, bella!


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