Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spinach, Walnut & Basil Pesto with Balsamic-Citrus Grilled Chicken

Okay, readers, I know the title sounds fancy-schmancy, but I promise that this recipe is super simple and cheap. Late last week, I decided I should be really conscious of what I was eating in preparation for my big triathlon coming up this weekend. My strategy for the next 6 days? I plan to rather pretentiously carb- and protein-load all week, as well as stay away from alcohol. Not that I drink that much anyway, but I somehow figured out that I feel and perform way better when I don't drink anything at all, ever. Who'd have thought it? So, don't expect any yummy cocktail recipes, like this one that I invented the other day when I realized I have 2 whole liters of peach schnapps in my pantry (how in the world that happened, I have no idea):

Georgia Peach Sweet Tea Cocktail
1 part Firefly sweet tea vodka
1/2 part peach schnapps
ice cold water

Fill a small rocks glass with ice, add ingredients, stir, go sit on your back porch, light a citronella candle and enjoy.

I digress. Back to my pesto, which I made in response to Dave's request for "something light." I tried making pesto, which is a vibrant green mixture that goes really well with pasta, from scratch earlier this summer, and forgot to add garlic. This made me angry, and sad, when I sat there wondering why it was so bland. I re-tried it this week, especially since my basil plant has not yet kicked the bucket and I wanted to make good use of its tasty, leafy greens. I felt the need to use up my remaining bag of spinach, something I have fully enjoyed as a pantry/fridge staple this summer. Also, I always have walnuts in my freezer, so this was a real cinch to whip up in no time.

Spinach and Walnut Pesto
In your food processor, combine the following:
about 1/2 to 3/4 bag fresh spinach, washed and patted dry (or run through the salad spinner)
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic
lots of salt & pepper
handful of basil leaves
about 1/3 cup of walnuts, toasted

until it resembles a somewhat homogenous mixture. Then, drizzle in about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of really good quality extra virgin olive oil. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I prefer it over vermicelli, angel hair, or spaghetti. Note: save some of your starchy pasta water while mixing the pesto with the pasta; if the pesto/pasta is too sticky, you can thin it out with hot pasta water or (what I did) butter. Lots of it.

Balsamic-Citrus Grilled Chicken
Prepare a marinade (combine together and pour in a dish or plastic zip-loc bag) out of the following ingredients:
about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
about 1/4 cup oil (I use EVOO; can use whatever you like really)
juice of the other half of your lemon, and maybe some zest if you feel like it
2 tablespoons honey
salt & pepper
fresh chopped basil and rosemary leaves (use dried Italian seasoning if you don't have fresh herbs)

Add 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the marinade; allow to chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes and up to several hours. Remove from marinade, grill until cooked through, about 12 minutes.

I think I made a balsamic chicken once based on a recipe of Giada's (surprise, surprise), but the grilled version was so very tasty. I served the chicken breasts over the pasta that had been tossed with the pesto. When you toss hot pasta with pesto, it cooks the mixture just enough to take the harsh, raw-ness out of the pesto. We devoured it, and I even enjoyed my leftovers cold the next day.

1 comment:

Grace said...

looks yummy. good work.

but if you think that's a "simple" recipe... then we don't speak the same language.

one of these days i'm gonna post a true simple recipe for all my cooking girls.